What ChatGPT can do for independent music
Photo: Image generated using artificial intelligence via OpenAI's DALL-E.
Everyone is talking about ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot that could potentially change the music industry. While the conversation has mainly focused on how ChatGPT can help with music creation, it is worth considering how it could also assist early-stage artists with marketing and planning. ChatGPT's advanced machine-learning algorithms could potentially provide valuable insights and recommendations for artists looking to succeed, particularly DIY artists who may not have as much time to focus on these tasks.
Case in point: Could you tell that entire paragraph was written by ChatGPT? Sure, it sounds a bit stilted, and the facts are pretty basic. But with some tweaking, it could be a helpful jumping-off point for writing this blog. (Don’t worry, MIDiA is not about to start using AI to write blogs. But it is a good way of illustrating a useful role it could play in the music business.)
Jumping-off points are often exactly what early-stage and independent artists need. Artists could use technology like ChatGPT to generate promotional materials, basic best practices, and even marketing ideas. The technology has — understandably — stoked fears about AI taking over music creation. But hopefully, this technology could help developing artists spend more time making music, not less.
Early-stage artists need career guides and time
Early-stage artists are essentially small businesses, and many need basic templates, best practices guides, and planning tools for building those businesses. While there is now an abundance of information for aspiring artists online, from blogs and newsletters to Twitter feeds, it takes time to sort through all this information and apply the best insights to one’s own work. The barrier to entry for music creation is lower than ever, but the barrier to entry for industry know-how remains high.
Artists of all levels also need time. They have more responsibilities than ever, and less time to actually create music. In order to take care of everything from writing an artist bio and one-sheet to developing a marketing plan for a new album, you need either lots of time or money (to hire help). Because early-stage and independent artists often lack the latter, they must handle these tasks themselves. The issue is not that the tasks are particularly hard — some are, and some are not — but more that there is not enough time for one person to do it all. At best, this leads to burnout; at worst, it leads to dropping out.
Enter the AI music business assistant
Technology like ChatGPT can help fill the gap. Far more sophisticated than any chatbot that came before it, it can generate everything from an artist bio based on a bullet-point list of facts, to a five-day schedule for reaching an artist’s goals, and fan engagement ideas for a virtual listening party. Users can add instructions like “use metaphors where appropriate” or “write in a conversational style” to guide the output, with surprisingly not-lame results. For example, “give me a recipe for a cocktail where the theme is SZA’s 2017 album Ctrl. Include a catchy title and ingredients” generated a convincing recipe for a cocktail cheekily named “CTRL + Alt + Refresh”. The technology is only as useful as the questions one asks it — and the more specific, the better.
Here are some other prompt examples:
Generate creative ideas for a virtual listening party for a hip-hop artist’s new album
Give me suggestions for building community within my fanbase as an artist
Write a 250-word artist biography based on the following bullet points
Give me 10 fandoms that are similar to Frank Ocean’s
As a music artist, what are some creative ways to encourage fan-generated content?
Over the next 5 days, I want to finish writing a new song, generate a marketing plan to release it, and add 50 TikTok followers. Give me a schedule for reaching my goals
Of course, the results will always need tweaking, and ChatGPT is not sophisticated enough to generate anything a marketing executive or manager could not do on their own. But for artists who need to save time and learn career-building basics — but cannot yet hire a team — free technology like this can be a helpful start.
Not perfect, but there is potential
Like any technology, ChatGPT has many other limitations. Its developers themselves note that “ChatGPT sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers”, and indeed, it has an uncanny capacity for making any argument sound convincing. It is also based on a snapshot of the world from sometime in 2021, so it does not know, for example, that Queen Elizabeth II is dead — nor does it understand any of the troubles surrounding post-pandemic touring. And however creative that SZA cocktail might sound, ChatGPT is merely engaging in pattern recognition, which makes it hard to generate anything truly innovative.
But imagine a version of ChatGPT created just for developing artists — an AI career assistant that could analyse fan data, suggest next steps, create basic marketing plans, compare an artist to others at a similar level, and even generate contracts (one space where ChatGPT falls somewhat short). OpenAI, the company that created ChatGPT, already has an API for its products. There is a growing agreement among music industry disruptors that “D.I.Y should not have to mean do it alone”, but it is much harder to come up with solutions to make that possible. This one has potential.
The dominant AI narrative has been of machines making music without humans. But ChatGPT shows us that a different narrative can exist, one in which machines make campaigns so that humans have more time to make music.