Trying to Predict the Future of Smart Speakers When It Comes to Music

[SINGAPORE -] Here at the Music Matters conference in Singapore, a lot of people were talking about smart speakers like Google Home, Amazon’s Alexa and upcoming units from Facebook and Apple. What kinds of effects will they have on music? Here are a few things I learned:

  • While there’s still plenty of work to be done so that these devices can interpret natural language commands, it’s now possible to ask for specific kinds of music. For example: “OK Google. Play me Bon Jovi rockers from the 80s” or “Play some jazz starting with Miles Davis” or “Play that song that goes [insert lyrics here].”
  • Nice, right? But this creates the risk of turning music even more into background noise. Given that the top command for Google home is the generic request “Play me some music,” there will be less of a connection with everything to do with the music other than the audio. ZERO context. That’s not good.
  • Furthermore, this sort of interaction extracts the music away from the artist and the creator of the music. Music could be reduced to something that comes from this juice can-sized thing on the counter.
  • Possible solution: Pre-recorded liners and IDs from artists and other influencers.
  • How can smart speakers help with music discovery and emerging artists? No clue–at least not yet.
  • Audio quality is…okay. But is that even an issue?
  • And what’s radio’s role in all this? Dunno, but the industry is talking about it. This is from Research Director Inc:

In order to maximize your opportunity for success, immediate action is needed. The single most important thing you need to do right now is to grab your “Invocation” for every device. Think back to when the internet was born and there was a mass rush to grab every important URL. You need to lock up your brand on Alexa, Google Home, and HomePod (when it becomes available) before someone else does. For example, if your brand is “Magic 98.5” then you want your station to play when someone asks Alexa to “Play Magic 98.5.” You don’t want the listener going to another radio station somewhere else in the country (or world).

You can do this yourself for Alexa (click here) or Google Home (click here). There are also companies such as Sonic AI and XappMedia that can help you maximize the user experience with your brand via a Smart Speaker. First impressions are extremely important so good invocations are critical. You don’t want to chase listeners away with a bad user experience. Your invocation also needs to be memorable and consistent across devices, as well as being consistent with your on air branding.

Read the whole article here.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37884 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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