If you’ve read any news stories about AI development lately, you probably knew AI Radio DJs were just around the corner.
Only a few weeks ago, OpenAI’s ChatGPT technology pretty much broke the internet. Since then, we’ve seen Apple launch AI narration, and a whole slog of new AI tools for podcasters have emerged from every direction.
So really, it was only a matter of time before the AI Radio DJ raised its ugly little virtual head. And it’s making quite an entrance. Last week alone, Spotify debuted its own AI DJ and media company Futuri launched an AI radio DJ solution, RadioGPT.
But what can these AI DJs really do? And as human mortal podcasters, should we be worried right now? Absolutely not.
What Can Spotify’s AI DJ Do?
If you’re a regular Spotify listener, some of what this new feature can do won’t surprise you. The AI DJ provides you personalised song recommendations based on what it knows you love. Essentially, what Spotify already does through the Discover Weekly feature.
But aside from this, the AI DJ also uses OpenAI technology to deliver “facts about music, artists, or genres” you’re listening to. So if you’re keen to dig deeper into the people and history behind the music, maybe this will be of interest to you. It’s like linking up an audio version of Wikipedia to your Spotify.
And the creepy part (you knew it was coming) is that all of these auto-generated music facts are delivered in the voice of Spotify’s own Head of Cultural partnerships, Xavier “X” Jernigan.
Using AI voice technology Sonantic (which Spotify acquired in 2022), listeners will hear a realistic imitation of X’s voice, telling you he’s about to play you a new release from Drake. And he’s doing this because he knows you played his last single a total of 534 times. Shudder.
But for many listeners (myself included), these DJ interruptions will be just that: interruptions. And unlike with radio DJs, we’ll be less forgiving, because they’re not humans. And robots should know better. We pay for Spotify Premium so we can listen to music uninterrupted.
The whole AI DJ listening experience reminded me of that empty feeling you get when radio stations air pre-recorded shows so they can give hosts a day off for Christmas. It’s eerily lonely, and the antithesis of why most people choose to listen to radio over streaming playlists; for comfort. It’s hard to see how this new feature will catch on.
What Can RadioGPT Do?
Like Spotify’s AI DJ, RadioGPT also has OpenAI’s GPT-3 technology at its core. But RadioGPT isn’t built to provide you music recommendations. It’s designed to deliver local news and weather reports during radio song breaks.
The technology was developed by a media company called Futuri, who are calling it “the world’s first AI-driven localized radio content solution.” RadioGPT combines GPT-3 with its own news-pulling technology, TopicPulse, to provide a solution that it plans to sell to local radio stations.
RadioGPT works by first scanning thousands of social media platforms (including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) to pull relevant local news stories. This is an interesting concept, but as we all know, these social media platforms are breeding grounds for fake news.
Just because a local story is shared widely doesn’t make it reliable. A while ago, ChatGPT told me Glasgow played host to a giant dinosaur statue made of custard. RadioGPT could very possibly tell us Drake’s about to marry the giant custard dinosaur in an elegant private ceremony at Lake Mead. It’s pretty clear that AI tools like this could make fake news an even bigger problem.
Once RadioGPT has pulled enough relevant stories (fake or otherwise) to fill a news slot, it uses ChatGPT to autogenerate a script. An AI voice will then read out the script. Stations can have up to three AI voices included in their package. And the weirdest part? They can even train the AI DJs to imitate an existing DJ’s voice.
Why Podcasters Don’t Need to Worry
OK, so maybe you’re reading this article with your jaw on the floor. You’re thinking, “That’s it; the robots have finally come for us”.
But while AI hosts certainly sound like something podcasters should be afraid of, quite the opposite is true. And the reason for this is that, at the core, what makes podcasting so successful is the humanity of the medium.
All of the top reasons listeners and advertisers love podcasting comes back to that human element. It’s the reason why personality-driven podcasts are consistently the main chart-toppers. It’s why studies have shown podcasts can even combat loneliness among listeners. Fallibility is a comfort we actually look for in radio DJs and podcasters.
I listened to the same radio DJ every morning for years even though I hated the music he played and his jokes weren’t funny. But his voice was always such a comforting way to start the day and I loved listening to him laugh (which he did constantly). When he lost his slot to a younger, cooler host with better taste in music, I grieved.
The idea of listening to an AI host that will never stumble on their words or laugh at their own jokes is kind of a terrifying thought. The parasocial relationships we develop with hosts are what makes podcasting so unique, and what gives us the edge over other mediums.
If you watch the trailer, I’m sure you’ll find Spotify’s AI DJ technology just as impressive as I did. But it provides a whole new type of listening experience that’s not comparable to radio DJs or podcast hosts. It’s smooth to the point of eerie, delivering exactly what we want to hear when we want to hear it. Which, let’s be honest, is boring as hell. It’s a pacifying experience that’s a far cry away from the challenge we enjoy as listeners, and what makes podcasting so popular.