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Will Robots Disrupt Live Music? How Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms Could Boost Ticket Sales

1Artificial intelligence may be set to disrupt the world of live music. Using data driven algorithms, AI would be able to calculate when and where artists should play, as well as streamline the currently deeply flawed means through which fans discover concerts happening in their area.


Guest Post by Cortney Harding on Medium

A few weeks ago, I posited that Artificial Intelligence could disrupt “background music”. While it wouldn’t replace pop stars (no robot could ever do what Beyonce did at the Super Bowl), it could replace the music we hear in ads, in stores, and while we’re doing other tasks. And while people will still flock to see live rock stars play in venues and arenas for years to come, AI will also have a huge impact on how we get to those shows, and how those shows are booked.

I have plenty of friends who work as booking agents, so it truly pains me to say this, but the robots might be coming for them. In an ideal world, AI will simply synthesize all the data about certain artists — their current fanbase, their potential base, their biggest markets — and make smart guesses about what size room they should play, and what dates are available. Some of this data exists, but plenty of the deeper social data has yet to be mined — I’m always shocked that no one has figured out some sort of Klout score for fans.

A band may not have a huge footprint in a market at a given time, but a hugely influential person in that market might have just started sharing them with their network, and maybe it’s worth booking a bigger show there. Agents could just have an algorithm do all the dull work and then spend their time negotiating deals; the danger is that enough artists could take a look at commission fee and decide that automated tour booking is worth it if they can save some money. Again, this won’t happen anytime soon, but it’s worth agents at least keeping an eye on it.

The other place AI could have a huge impact is in how people get to see those shows. Live show discovery is still deeply flawed — it just takes too much time. Automated streaming discovery platforms, like Spotify Discover, are great, but getting from liking a song on a playlist to seeing the band just takes far too many steps. I started randomly clicking through artists on my Discover Weekly playlist this week and couldn’t find touring information for any of them, let alone links to buy tickets. If a ticketing company pulled that data and sent me push notifications every time one of them announced a tour, that would be helpful — but it wouldn’t go far enough.

In an ideal world, I’d be able to set some parameters and get a yes/no push notification every time tickets went on sale for a band I wanted to see, whether it was someone on my Discover Weekly playlist, any band that got “Best New Music” on Pitchfork, what have you. No waiting ticketing sites hitting refresh, no reading about a tour announcement on Brooklyn Vegan and then forgetting about it — just the shows I want to see, delivered right to me.

This could easily have applications outside music, too. Say I want to try all the restaurants a certain critic likes, or go to all the events recommended by a blog — I could just select yes or no in the push notifications to get reservations when they open up. This would easy enough to gamify if you encouraged social sharing as part of the program — maybe you move ahead in the notification queue the more you share about a certain experience, or the more followers you have.

The program could also have access to your calendar and solve one of the most vexing issues many of us have — scheduling. It takes at least four or five emails to lock down a meeting, and that’s if someone actually knows how to schedule something. If you get someone who responds “totally!” when you ask about a meeting and then you have to drag out nailing down dates and times, it’s a huge hassle. And forget about the people who ask you to “just text when you’re around,” or the people who constantly book and cancel and book and cancel. Any scheduling AI that has automatic flake-detection can and should make a zillion dollars.

Getting back to the music side of things, this could help increase crowds at shows, because everything would be so much more streamlined. My friends with kids could see more shows and go out more because their calendars could automatically sync with their childcare providers and even handle the payments. The number of people who miss shows simply because they forgot, or didn’t find out about it until after the fact would drop substantially. And if the program goes really deep, it could make even smarter recommendations — it could scan social and email to ascertain whether you’ve had a bad day, and maybe suggest a comedy show or fun event to cheer you up. And once you’re there, it could serve yes/no notifications based on past preferences — if you always drink a certain type of beer, for instance, it could ask whether you wanted one, and you could pay with one touch and then head to the bar to pick it up when it is ready. This would limit the amount of time you spend smashing up against other people at the bar between sets 1 (1)trying to buy a drink, which would in turn allow the bars to shorten times between sets, which would allow for more music or more efficient shows — both great outcomes.

Eighties and nineties punk kids will remember a zine called “Book Your Own Fucking Life”—for you young ones, it was a paper guide to booking concerts at punk houses and dive bars around the world. But now we’ve moved on — you don’t need to book your life when an algorithm can do it for you.