Spin a song, put on a record, turn on the radio—and there’s a good chance that someone, somewhere is listening to the same song at the same time. At least, that’s the sort of tepid, abstract assumption you can make on a planet of seven billion people in the spirit of we’re all, like, connected, man.
Serendipity—a new experiment by Spotify’s first Media Artist In Residence Kyle McDonald—makes that abstraction concrete, using data from a one-hour snapshot of Spotify usage to find people playing the same songs within a tenth of a second of each other. The results are at first typical—pop music abounds—then surprising, and then almost harmonizing. Like, sure, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication” might be a long-exhausted Top 40 hit in the U.S., but knowing that two strangers from Brasília, Brazil and Las Piñas, Phillipines hit play on the tune at the exact same time? That still seems special.
Nor is it all pop music. There was one moment where the app revealed a pair Europeans separated by hundreds of miles simultaneously listening to Brian Eno’s “Small Craft On A Milk Sea,” and another where the same Classical recording was being played an ocean apart.
Either way, in the era of “Big Data,” it’s nice to see an instance where a massive database of tracked user habits is used to make the day a little brighter.