Notes on ChatGPT in the Music Industry
What happens when talk is cheap?
Hello folks. I’ve been building Spectral, a writing studio for founders and investors in tech. It’s my first real stint as a founder and I’m figuring things out as we grow.
Anyway, this has made it hard to write consistently, something I love doing. So for the next few essays, I’m experimenting with a shorter format—500ish words, no bs. (Okay fine! maybe a little bs)
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Right, on to today’s essay.
One of the topics I’ve been thinking about lately is ChatGPT and its potential implications for the music industry. In case you’ve been living under a rock or just happen to be a true Cal Newport fan, here’s a quick explainer:
ChatGPT is an open source, free-to-use text-generating AI engine. It allows you to generate fully human-readable text, conversational or otherwise, at scale. Basically, an AI that can generate human-like conversations in natural language.
The potential for this technology is limitless, and frankly, terrifying. We’ve seen everything from engaging landing page copy to cold emails in the style of Shakespeare. But how does it impact the music industry?
Let’s look at some potential use cases first.
ChatGPT could be used to quickly create lyrics for new songs. Musicians can simply start a conversation with ChatGPT and request it to generate lyrics for them.
Engaging with fans, at scale
There are already a plethora of ChatBot services that aim to help artists and celebrities interact with their fans. There is no mild way of saying this, but they suck. ChatGPT will dramatically up the bar. It could help artists engage with fans, by replying to their comments, questions, or messages with AI-generated content. This could enable unique customer interactions at scale without artists having to invest their time and energy.
Ending template culture
ChatGPT can also be used to generate contracts, press releases, and other standard documents on behalf of musicians, publishers, labels and other industry professionals—generating standard documents need not entail hiring expensive middlemen.
While all of these use cases are exciting, I think a caveat of sorts is in order. We need to understand the dynamics driving human status. More specifically, the role of expensive signaling.
Understanding expensive signaling
There is a reason why executives fly out to meet clients in their private jets when they could just send across a zoom link. Spending money to fly out and meet someone showcases how valuable you perceive them to be—and gives them a rough sense of how many zeros there are at the end of your bank balance. We’ve seen less extreme manifestations of this in our daily lives: the omnipresence of phones, texts, and emails have made IRL meetings more valuable.
Every time we invent a cheaper and more efficient medium of communication; personalisation, effort, and imperfection become scarce, and therefore, increasingly valuable.
(This trend is not just restricted to communication, and applies to commodities as well. Remember, “hand-made” aka “artesanal” only became a good thing after the exodus of factory-made products!)
Okay so how is this relevant to ChatGPT?
Talk is cheap on the internet. In fact it has been for quite some time now. Spam prevails because the marginal cost of replication and distribution of content on the internet is next to nothing. Generative AI takes this to the next level. It enables a world where generating facts and some logical gibberish around them is completely free. But of course, humans are ingenious primates and our status dynamics will shift accordingly. Authenticity and imperfection will become increasingly valuable.
So, back to our probing question, what does this mean for the music industry?
Resurgence of groups
As Sam Lessin put it, "we're all going to retreat into tight private webs of localized trust” essentially inverting from large platforms with billions of users to smaller, trustworthy networks. The smartest people I know already get their news and insight from exclusive, curated groups of like-minded people. So I guess the takeaway here is less Twitter, more Discord?
Side note: This trend will eventually converge with the concept of on-chain reputation in web3.
Imperfection becomes a personal branding tool
For instance, if anybody can write pop song lyrics, what makes a song stand out? If every artist can use a chatbot to effectively interface with fans, what makes an authentic artist? If everyone is BeingReal, what makes something real??
My guess is personal brands become key here. Artists and celebrities will go above and beyond to showcase how they are normal humans, with normal lives. And ironically, imperfection will become a performing art. Like intentional candid pictures. Fun.
Ultimately, I see ChatGPT going down two, non-binary paths: On the one hand, GPT3 could unleash the true creativity of humans by enabling us to access vast amounts of information that is otherwise too expensive to gather. On the other hand, the internet could become Mumbai at rush hour - loud, chaotic, and not conducive to peaceful human existence.
If you like this essay, please share it with other humans who might enjoy it too. I have no social media (except Twitter) so the social approval really keeps me going! As they say, there is no discipline, only dopamine ;)
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