In addition, chatbots can help solve the last-mile problem in music discovery and awareness that existing advertising methods struggle to solve. By adopting an already-existing interface, chatbots reduce the cost and friction of trying out new services, and could also spread more organically through native, user-driven “mentions” and “invites”—which is more cumbersome to achieve on standalone apps.
“Really it’s just a question of reach,” David Marcus, VP of Messaging Products at Facebook, explained at this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt. “You want to be able to reach all [of your contacts], not just 95%.”One of the most exciting revenue opportunities with chatbots is at live events, where transactions are often more impulsive, more tangible and more immediate. For instance, as festival management software startup BeatSwitch wrote on its blog, “bots can be a way for festival organizers to let people start saving for festival tickets in the future. This will not only give organizers quantitative data about the success rate of their upcoming festival, but [will also] create a constant revenue stream of ticket sales. With those parameters, a promoter can scale his festival based on the cash flow that’s coming in before the show’s actual dates.”
Others argue that chatbots are not so much revenue generators as they are medallions of convenience, which is a plus for any consumer. “It will never be a ‘sales tool,’” Luke Ferrar, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at Virgin EMI Records UK, told Music Ally. “But I think it can guarantee near 100% instant delivery of a message to a group of superfans, which is quite a powerful thing.”
Ferrar’s words underscore the importance of driving instant interaction, rather than longer-form conversation, on automated messaging services. Indeed, bots can make certain operational processes in the music industry much more efficient, which has both B2C and B2B ramifications.
Music businesses could take inspiration, for instance, from the New York Times data science team; they built a Slack bot named Blossom that simplified workflow for their social media managers by automatically recommending which articles to post on specific networks.
This points to one of the biggest challenges with chatbots, especially those based on celebrities and other personalities: convincing consumers to adopt automated behavior in a chat setting, which still thrives on longer, more unpredictable communication with other human beings. To modify Atchison’s words, services are easy; people are hard.
“Discovery of discreet conversational services becomes less of an issue if users are slowly trained to think and type more like programmers,” wrote Chris Messina, Developer Experience Lead at Uber. “That is, the more that users get frustrated expressing themselves in complete sentences, and the more technically sophisticated they become, the more likely they are to warm to the efficiencies of the command line.”
Nonetheless, music chatbots will still need support from celebrities and personalities in order to drive mass user adoption. “We need more chatbots that reflect the personas of people we care about,” wrote Josh Bocanegra, who built the Selena Gomez bot. “These chatbots will consequently strengthen the brand of public figures, which will then increase user adoption of chatbots overall.”
While we can expect a high attrition and turnover rate for these early-stage chatbots, this is an exciting and long-overdue time for experimentation with automated messaging services, whose applicability across multiple verticals in the music business could improve and enhance experiences for consumers and artists alike.
“There are so many different ways it can free up your bandwidth to focus on other tasks,” says Pelzner. “For this reason, I think eventually everyone will have a bot.”