manifesto: against the “daylist”

5 min readApr 23, 2024

as i am sure you will be able to figure out from both the content of this blog, and my general demeanour, i love music. music is life, as the interminable addison rae once said. as i write this, i am even listening to music (snail mail on audiotree live. great ep!) the way that i listen to music is slightly atypical. i mean, it’s not like i listen to merzbow on five separate £2000 cd players and £7000 amplifiers or anything, but i like to listen to an album in full most days. the days that i don’t, i enjoy listening to the radio. radio 6, specifically, which usually plays songs i like, but is a bit more funk-inclined than my taste is. i think that the general cavalcade of playlists and streaming-on-demand makes listening to music a little bit too much of a hedonistic endeavour. don’t get me wrong, i do enjoy being able to listen to any song i want to at any time for a cheap price, but i also don’t think it’s a particularly healthy ability for the sake of music, both for any non-uber popular musician making money, and the way that it is viewed in the public consciousness.

one of my favourite shows on tv is a sketch show called limmy’s show. it is an incredible show, which i am perennially rewatching, and which i highly recommend (on iplayer!) for everyone to watch as soon as they finish reading this article. you could even stop reading this to start watching limmy’s show and i wouldn’t blame you. in one of the episodes, there is a sketch, with the titular limmy as a radio show host, questioning why someone would call in to request a song, instead of just playing it when they want. the show was filmed in the early 2010s, so requesting songs was much more of a relic, done purely for the sake of wanting to hear the song. nowadays, requesting a song is done for more reasons than just listening to music. firstly, it feels good to be selected for anything! and to hear your voice on national radio is a fun occasion. secondly, and i think more importantly, it helps to foster a sense of esprit de corps. to think that a non-insignificant number of people are listening to a song you requested, i think it reflects a homogenising force that is absent in our hyper-alienated modern world. maybe i am valourising the radio too much, since a lot of people still listen to it, especially in the car or in public places. some people even- shock horror- listen to it from the comfort of their homes! despite this, i think supporting radio is important! i discovered some of my favourite songs and artists through there, and the feeling is magnificent. it imbues one with a transcendent joy. a fantastic feeling.

on the topic of music discovery, the worst part of streaming for me is how most music discovery is presented to people through an algorithm. obviously, the music streaming services (spotify is the only one. the rest are mental illnesses) and their constant playing of some bands that have, not legally, but spiritually finagled the algorithm to get people to listen to their awful music. however, a lot of people, including me in the past, discover music through social media. which, lest we forget, is still algorithmically-controlled. and algorithms are not necessarily bad things, but when recommending music, i wholeheartedly believe they are. there are so many amazing music publications that recommend great music that actually sounds interesting! and while music press has its fair share of problems (including but not limited to hyping up terrible bands, for example [redacted] and [data expunged]), i think being able to decide what music you should listen to based on something that someone has spent time writing about is better for the soul, and for your ears. (as a [with the heaviest of quotation marks] “writer”, i am obviously biased to glorify the act of writing, but even if i weren’t, i would still believe this completely.)

a couple of months ago, i began noticing that all of these curated playlists started saying that they were “made for me.” there are many spotify playlists that say this- all of the daily mixes do, and are algorithmically churned out. yet all of the most popular spotify playlists, even the dreadful “sad girl starter pack” are still curated by someone at spotify hq (probably by some underpaid workers forced to spend ten hours on tiktok a day to see which viral hit is passably downtempo). when i saw that the sad girl starter pack was, quote unquote, “made for me”, i could tell something bad was on the horizon.

the culmination of algorithmic recommendations is something which is far worse, and i believe far more sinister, than any algorithm ever could be. ai-generated recommendations. i am loathe to ai having anything to do with art. it is a poisonous and wretched tool, corrupting the good amongst us, and condemning the bad among us to an altogether more accursèd fate. the spotify “daylist” is the climax of the worst trends in music listening habits.

a playlist, ostensibly updated every couple of hours to appeal to your listening habits, based on seven or eight buzzwordy music genres, yet generated by ai. a “personal dj”, it has been billed as. your own radio station, playing only the music you like, but playing something different every couple of hours. the apex of streaming culture: no longer are you bound by the impersonality of being played music you enjoy by an algorithm! instead, you have an uncanny-valley style homunculus, doing the exact same job, but aestheticised up the wazoo.

for an example of what the daylist provided me one day, it said that, and i quote, “you listened to experimental rock, rock, and american rock.” the playlist then consisted of, in order, two sonic youth songs, two breeders songs, two pixies songs, and the rest of the playlist was sonic youth. don’t get me wrong, i love sonic youth. i also like the breeders! my thoughts on the pixies will remain clandestine at this time, but the fact that it didn’t provide any new music to me, a person who both enjoys listening to new music, and hasn’t listened to much experimental rock outside of the big hitters, is emblematic of the daylist’s true purpose: to provide music that you’ve already listened to, and know that you’ll enjoy. in a culture where discovering new art is constantly filtered through distinctly impersonal algorithms, closing someone’s listening habits off through the enclosured knife-wound of a personal dj seems to be the next step in stifling any new musical soundscapes for the typical music listener.

this is therefore my manifesto: do not listen to your daylist. break the chains of daily mix two on your psyche. listen to the radio. find music from written music criticism! and if you have an uber-niche music taste that evades both radio and written articles, listen to albums in full. make your own playlists, even. or listen to some that a friend made. i am not petitioning against playlists. this is a cry to avoid inhumanity in music, the most human medium of art.