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Big Tech’s latest assault on ‘copying radio’ now features AI DJs

Big Tech’s latest assault on ‘copying radio’ now features AI DJs

After years of throwing cash at content creators to grow original content on their streaming platforms, it appears that artificial intelligence is the new “talent” set to be unleashed on digital audio.

Spotify and YouTube have both announced tools this week that seek to use AI for custom DJs or radio stations.

Spotify has rolled out “AI DJ” in beta, which will “deliver a curated lineup of music alongside commentary around the tracks and artists we think you’ll like in a stunningly realistic voice.”

The tool uses personalisation and Open AI technology, along with a dynamic AI voice platform to enable its music editors to sort through new music and music Spotify users have already listened to to customise the experience.

Xavier Jernigan, head of cultural partnerships at Spotify, will be the first “model for the DJ”, and more voices will be added in due course.

It can be accessed by tapping the “DJ card” through the Music Feed from “Home” in the Spotify mobile app. If listeners hit the DJ button again in the bottom right of the screen, listeners will be taken to a different genre, artist, or mood.

This comes after its curated playlist app, Spotify Stations, initially rolled out in the US in 2019, was shut down last year. However, Spotify still has a Radio feature on its app’s homepage which takes you to bespoke playlists by artist and song.

YouTube’s Radio Builder

Meanwhile, YouTube Music introduced a new radio experience, the “Radio Builder”, to its users on Tuesday so they can create their own “custom radio stations”.

Listeners can pick up to 30 artists to create a radio station, and alter how frequently these artists appear and filter the mood of the station as well as “new discoveries”. A user’s station can opt to pull in content from similar artists to the selection as well.

It can be accessed in the app through the “Your music tuner” section in the YouTube Music homepage.

Spotify and YouTube were contacted for comment but did not respond ahead of publication.

Nor are they the first tech platforms to attempt to put their tanks on radio’s lawn.

Amazon launched a live mobile radio app, Amp, last year, which it called “a reinvention of radio featuring human-curated live audio shows”.

Apple Music, meanwhile, currently offers the option to listen live to its own radio stations Apple Music 1, Apple Music Hits and Apply Music Country.

What’s the difference between a live playlist and radio?

However, Big Tech does not have a great history of trying to innovate in radio, according to Matt Deegan, creative director at Folder Media.

Deegan told The Media Leader: “It’s really easy to think that the big tech, because of all of their success, will easily create something to do a better job than radio. However they have tried to do this so many times and it always ends in them abandoning the product.”

He added: “The main reason they abandon them, is that doing radio well is pretty hard and requires actual understanding of listeners rather than just the mechanics of what radio seems like. Tech folks, because they listen to the radio, think they understand what it’s for. But they’re acting like listeners, not (radio) programmers.”

He said there was “a disconnect” and “a lack of understanding” about how people listen to things — lean forward versus lean back dynamic. “Radio is for most people one button. No rating tracks, creating playlists — someone else does that for you. YouTube’s custom stations are just glorified playlists.”

Nevertheless, it appears that Big Tech’s influence on radio has led to some innovations, such as Global introducing a function on its radio and podcast app Global Player which allows listeners to skip songs.

This takes them to a live playlist called “My Radio” where users can vote up or down tracks to hear more or less of. They can return to live radio listening at any time.

A spokesperson at Global also highlighted that Global Player provides personalised recommendations for podcasts and playlists based on listening history.

Watch Matt Deegan speak to The Media Leader editor Omar Oakes at next week’s Future of Audio Europe conference in London next week, where they will discuss the state of UK audio and what changes need to be made to improve the sector’s commercial strength as audiences surge on digital devices. 

Adwanted UK are the audio experts operating at the centre of audio trading, distribution and analytic processing. Contact us for more information on J-ET, Audiotrack or our RAJAR data engine. To access our audio industry directory, visit audioscape.info and to find your new job in audio visit The Media Leader Jobs, a dedicated marketplace for media, advertising and adtech roles.
Nick Drew, CEO, Fuse Insights , on 27 Feb 2023
“Meanwhile Big Radio's latest assault on digital streaming platforms includes copying the ad-free paid subscription model, with Bauer promoting its new 'premium' experience for digital listeners, replacing ad breaks with additional music. It does rather point to audio becoming more homogenous not only in platform usage but also the listening experience, with broadcasters of all stripes not afraid to experiment with tactics they see working for other platforms.”

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