LISTEN: Evan Greer – ‘Surveillance Capitalism’

A rallying cry against the un-nerving nature of Spotify’s increasingly pervasive developments in user-monitoring technologies, Boston-based indie-punk artist Evan Greer has shared her latest single ‘Surveillance Capitalism’. Taken from her new album Spotify is Surveillance, released via Don Giovanni Records and queer-run independent label Get Better Records, the track also marks the launch of Greer’s campaign with digital rights platform Fight for the Future.

The campaign calls on Spotify to drop reported plans to use artificial intelligence and voice recognition software to spy on listeners’ conversations, conducting emotional surveillance and manipulation to target music and advertising. Greer, who is also a journalist & a pro-active voice for trans rights and equality, will be donating all the profits from her single to the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) to support their #JusticeAtSpotify campaign.

“We all want to be seen / but behind the screen / there’s a nightmare dressed up as a dream,” Greer sings, a sentiment that will resonate deeper with listeners who have endured a year of increased screen-time due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic’s on-going lockdowns. The idea that Spotify could be spying on and profiting from people’s privacy via new technologies is abhorrent to Greer, and she wants listeners to push back against the platform’s plans too.

“The fact that Spotify filed a patent for this type of emotional surveillance and manipulation is beyond chilling,” she explains. “It’s not enough for them to say that they have no plans to use this technology right now, they should publicly commit to never conducting this type of surveillance on music listeners. Surveillance capitalism as a business model is fundamentally incompatible with basic human rights and democracy, regardless of whether it’s being employed by Facebook, Amazon, or Spotify.

The song and video highlight the fact that the Internet has the potential to profoundly transform our society for the better, abolishing false scarcity and enabling universal access to human knowledge and creativity, while ensuring marginalized and independent artists and creators are fairly compensated for our labour. But if we allow a small handful of companies to dominate the web and the music industry with a parasitic business model based on surveillance and exploitation, we’re headed for the opposite: a dystopian future where algorithms decide what we see and hear based on profit, rather than artistry.”

Listen to ‘Surveillance Capitalism’ below.

Follow Evan Greer on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter & Instagram

Photo Credit: Kayana Szymczak

Kate Crudgington