Once upon a time, parents and students turned to radio stations the morning after a big storm to see if their local schools would be closed for a snow day or not. Back then, schools did not have the ability to reach all of their students on short notice, so they relied on radio to get the word out. But when the internet, email, and text messaging came along, schools no longer needed radio stations to disseminate this information; now they could broadcast the message to their students without outside help.
Technological advancements change the way we receive specific types of information. We can see this in other places as well. As a kid, I relied on television, radio, or newspapers to find out what the weather would be. Not anymore. Now, I ask Alexa as part of my morning routine. This is more convenient for me, because I want this information when I get dressed. If I ever find myself wanting weather information when my Echo is not in earshot, I turn to my phone. While I don't tune out weather reports, I can't remember the last time I actively sought a weather report on television or radio station (or their websites). It's simply not the most convenient way for me to get that information anymore.
The Concert Calendar has been a staple for music radio stations for as long as I have been in the business. Different stations that I worked for executed this feature in different ways. At some, a jock recorded a list of upcoming concerts onto a cart in the morning and it ran in stopsets throughout the day. At other stations, we had a stack of index concerts with upcoming concert information written on them and the jock would read a handful live on the air. Like weather reports, the concert calendar was an easy sponsorship for the sales team to sell.
When the internet came along, the concert calendar also became an online staple for music radio stations. In fact, the concert calendar webpage is routinely one of the most visited pages on many radio station websites. So why is it in danger now?
AI Can Serve Up Concert Info Better Than Radio Can
Yes, prior to the release of Meta's Threads, ChatGPT set a record as the fastest downloaded app of all time: It only took five days to reach one million downloads. And yes, A.I. has been been the topic du jour of 2023. That doesn't mean that people have gotten in the habit of asking ChatGPT questions on a daily basis…yet. But they will.
On July 3rd, ChatGPT's Bing plugin was disabled because it was circumventing paywalled content. OpenAI, ChatGPT's parent company, has promised that the plugin will return once they've made some adjustments, though there is no ETA at the moment. The Bing plugin is significant because it allows ChatGPT to search the internet in real time. Without it, ChatGPT's knowledge base only includes information published up through September of 2021 (though there are various other plugins that allow ChatGPT to crawl particular websites, such as YouTube).
We've learned that ChatGPT's "Browse" beta can occasionally display content in ways we don't want, e.g. if a user specifically asks for a URL's full text, it may inadvertently fulfill this request. We are disabling Browse while we fix this—want to do right by content owners.
— OpenAI (@OpenAI) July 4, 2023
I had an opportunity to play the ChatGPT using the Bing plugin before it was disabled. In particular, I was looking for various ways to use the service to prep for a radio airshift. One of the things I discovered is that ChatGPT was very good at providing me with upcoming concert information.
In other words, ChatGPT could do for the concert calendar what Alexa has done for weather reports: make it easy for me to get the information whenever I want without having to wait around for a radio station to provide it. More important, I can get just the information I want; I can tailor my question to a specific band (“When are the Foo Fighters playing in Tulsa?”) or venue (“What bands are playing at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield this month?”) without having to wade through a lot of extraneous information.
While we're waiting for ChatGPT and Microsoft to fix the Bing plugin, there are other places when can go to use AI for concert information. For example, Jasper‘s chat function can also search the web. When I asked it, “How much are tickets to see Beyonce in Detroit?,” it replied:
“According to the search results, here is some information about ticket prices for Beyoncé's concert in Detroit:
- Tickets for Beyonce shows in Detroit start at $72.00 and average $128.00.
- The average price for a single ticket to attend a Beyonce Ford Field concert is $398.00.
- Premium Beyonce tickets at Ford Field can cost up to $6,821.00 per ticket.
- Ticketmaster has tickets ranging from $395 for seats in the 100 level to $4,751 for the VIP section.
- Resale tickets for the concert range from $187 for 300 level seats to $2,200 for the B-Hive General Admission section.
Please note that ticket prices may vary based on factors such as the date of the show, seat selection, tour guests, and other factors. It's always recommended to check official ticketing websites, such as Ticketmaster, SeatGeek, or Vivid Seats, for the most accurate and up-to-date pricing information.”
The concert calendar on my local radio station's website probably would not have this level of detail; the on-air version definitely would not.
Technological advancements change the way we receive specific types of information. Very soon, there will be a better way to receive concert information than through on-air and online concert calendars.
This underscores the notion that the value of AI for radio is not in the ability to create massive amounts of Easy Content. After all, why do listeners need a radio station to create easy content with ChatGPT when it's just as easy for them to generate that content for themselves?
(Let's draw a distinction here between “Easy Content,” which can be produced with a simple internet search, and “Complex Content,” such as artist interviews, elaborate stunts, or real journalism.)
The Value of On-Air Personalities
What's the value of radio when it is no longer needed to provide Easy Content? We know the answer, because we've seen this in other places.
When you know exactly what song you want to hear, that song falls into the category of “easy content” — something that you can pull up quickly on the internet. For example, if I want to hear the song “I'm Just Ken” by Ryan Gosling from the Barbie soundtrack right now, I'm going to head to Spotify or YouTube, not turn on my radio and wait for a station to play it. (By contrast, when you don't know exactly what song you want, things ARE more complicated, and radio still plays a role.)
What has happened to radio as the average listener has been empowered by the internet to seek out their own music? As we can see in our annual Techsurvey, on-air personalities have become more important than the music:
A few weeks ago, I argued that radio stations should look for ways to use AI to help them get better at what they're already uniquely good at. What are radio stations uniquely good at? Not conducting internet searches to find easy content, like concert information. Anybody can do that! No, radio stations are good at taking that Easy Content and turning it into engaging entertainment.
In other words, don't use AI to replace your DJs; your DJs are the most valuable asset your radio station has! Instead, use AI as a show prep tool to make your DJs even better than they already are.
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