Voice skills are supposedly the new apps. However, we’ve witnessed the debut of 80,000 Alexa skills and we still haven’t had a hit. Especially nothing comparable to the early successes on the iPhone app store like Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, and Words with Friends. That’s why I think the first “hit voice skill” will come from a completely different line of thinking than what produced the first 80,000 skills.
Right now, we’re largely focused on using voice skills to augment daily habits; these are your audible light switches, shopping list apps, weather apps, calendar apps, games like 20 Questions and Jeopardy, etc…
Instead of augmenting habits, though, if developers created a voice skill around a grandiose, non-regular experience, that might be the ticket to having an absolute hit.
That’s why I’m intrigued by the idea of personalized concerts on Alexa.
Even though music has already been one of the staple features of smart speakers, I’ve yet to even hear the idea of an artist (or label) creating a voice skill – let alone creating a skill that allowed their listeners to experience the artist’s sounds in a “choose your own adventure style”.
There are two reasons why I think personalized concerts on Alexa would be a hit:
- It creates a more personal concert.
- Economically and at scale it could be better for the artist (or label) if they were to utilize some type of micropayment solution.
Personalized to the Fan’s Taste
The problem with concerts today is that it’s hard to please the whole crowd. For an artist like Beyonce or Elton John, they cannot possibly play every song people want to hear and still play their new stuff. As a result, many fans go home not having heard their favorite song.
Add in the fact that most concerts will pair up 3-4 artists to make sure the show sells out, and fans might be stuck listening to someone they very much dislike, just to listen to the person they came to see.
These concert problems all melt away when the medium is changed to the smart speaker (especially smart speakers with displays or even smart TVs). The smart speaker provides the perfect opportunity for a fan to create a personalized concert experience that’s right for them.
The simplest way to describe it is that this would be a “choose your own adventure” experience, where after each song or story that is told by the artist, there’s some dialogue between the artist and fan that prompts the fan to choose the next song or the dialogue indirectly informs the Alexa device which song the fan would like to hear. It’s what I like to call conversational music.
For instance, the artist could explicitly ask what song the fan would like to hear next. Or, they may indirectly ask by asking the fan what type of mood they’re in or alluding to a song with certain lyrics. The artist might share their inspiration behind a song and then they could ask their fans about their own relationship with a given song.
The key here is that the artist records the whole experience up-front, an editor chops it up into its different segments, and a computer programmer applies conditional logic to the collection of clips – which is essentially “if-then statements”, where “if” a fan says this “then” this clip is played. That’s how a choose your own adventure is created out of pre-made media.
Nonetheless, there’s a lot that can be done here to make the fans feel more connected to the artist and also put them in control of the concert, without making it difficult on them.
This type of personal experience has never really existed before. However, if I were to point to anything similar, I would say:
VH1 Storytellers and MTV Unplugged displayed how the traditional concert could be reimagined – by showcasing a very raw and intimate dialogue between the artist and audience. Like when John Mayer talked through his iconic song, Daughters. Or when Bruce Springsteen explained how he thought through Thunder Road as the opening to Born to Run.
Smart speakers (or smart tvs) could be the perfect medium to initiate these sonically intimate experiences and uniquely create a virtual environment where each fan gets to talk with the artist. Not to mention, the Echo Show, Facebook Portal, and Google Home Hub all have screens which means you can simultaneously have the visual elements present as well.
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Currently, all the music industry models are broken. Streaming cuts artists out of what they deserve. And labels are notoriously cutthroat with their 360 contracts.
Concerts and touring still remain some of the best opportunities for artists of all types to make their money. Unfortunately, concerts are expensive to put on. Logistically, tours are a nightmare to plan. And they’re extremely demanding on the lives of the artists themselves.
Personalized concerts on Alexa would offer up a new stream of income for the emerging internet artist. They’d have to do a lot of work up-front to create all the different recordings and possibilities a fan might choose. But then it’s “set it and forget it” (until they want to add to it).
For this, a one-time access fee would suffice (or an aggressive artist could toy around with the concept of micropayments).
I remember when Ryan and I both bought a TIDAL subscription three years ago just so we could watch Kanye West premiere The Life of Pablo and Yeezy Season 3 at Madison Square Garden… We watched a concert/fashion show on a music streaming app! It goes to show that no revenue model is too absurd. Fans will do anything to get closer to their favorite artists. I, for one, can’t wait to attend my first personalized concert on Alexa.