Playlisting Favorites: Measuring Platform Bias in the Music Industry
Platforms are growing increasingly powerful, raising questions about whether their power might be exercised with bias. While bias is inherently difficult to measure, we identify a context within the music industry that is amenable to bias testing. Our approach requires ex ante platform assessments of commercial promise - such as the rank order in which products are presented - along with information on eventual product success. A platform is biased against a product type if the type attains greater success, conditional on ex ante assessment. Theoretical considerations and voiced industry concerns suggest the possibility of platform biases in favor of major record labels, and industry participants also point to bias against women. Using data on Spotify curators' rank of songs on New Music Friday playlists in 2017, we find that Spotify's New Music Friday rankings favor independent-label music, along with some evidence of bias in favor of music by women. Despite challenges that independent-label artists and women face in the music industry, Spotify's New Music curation appears to favor them.
This research had no external support. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.