Radio Ink at SXSW Wednesday: Songs In The Key Of AI


(By Charese Fruge’) There is not enough time for one person to come even close to seeing it all in a day at SXSW, but I did get a crash course in the future of technology at the Creative Industries Expo. Like a mini CES, Radio Ink got a look at the cutting edge of technology, design, social good, and health and wellness on an international level.

I opened my tour with a very impressive immersive audio development – TooFar Media has a free app that allows you to read novels, listen to music, and look at art, animation, and film with the experience of an IMAX Theater-type background on the device of your choice. Think audio narrative with visual effects and images on your screen to bring the immersive story worlds to life.

I spent some time in the Podcast Lounge watching successful hosts offer new and innovative ways of attracting followers, creating loyalty, and bringing on new and non-traditional sponsors and investors.

There was plenty of impressive new streaming and editing equipment on display. I also witnessed some things I couldn’t begin to explain to you what their purpose was, like a giant spider-looking device called an Xs Sculpture: Shaping space and cognition via Interactive ACTUATED Scissor Mechanisms. What does that even mean? Also, what is its purpose? Either way, it was definitely entertaining.

Of course, artificial intelligence is the talk of the Festivals, and after sitting in on a panel about ethics in the use of AI in media, I had to check it out for myself. As a radio talent and broadcaster, content provider, and music lover, I have NEVER been a fan of the use of AI. I often worried about the ethics of its use in a creator economy (not to mention the fear of its impact on employment in the industry), so I sat down in the International Pavilion and compared several different software programs from different countries to create a song with the use of AI.

Needless to say, they are all very much the same and appear to be advancing all at the same time. I went with a UK provider whose slogan was “Supporting Creators, Not Replacing Them.” Ha. I picked a pop genre with a major pitch. It fed me a tune, then added a melody. Then I gave it an idea for lyrics: soulmates going through a breakup. A pretty common song theme.

Finally, I had to pick a male or female vocalist. I went with female, then the computer did its thing and I got a 3-minute pop song… that I couldn’t get past 30 seconds on. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be #1 with a bullet. 

Now, in all fairness, you can insert your own lyrics, vocals, and effects, but what’s the point? Either a human creates the song, or a computer does. After this experiment, I’m positive that going through the process of using the program will just be a waste of time because you’ll want to replace a lot.

When it comes to ethics, it would be a creator’s duty to identify the use of AI in the process of writing and producing the song. As a music lover, I don’t think I would be nearly as passionate about a song if I couldn’t make a human connection with the creative process of its making. To me, that’s a huge challenge for an artist to engage loyal fans who stick around for the life of their career. That feels like the ultimate death of the “album” as we know it.

By the way – for anyone interested in virtual reality, the Central Intelligence Agency gave me a VR tour of the lobby of their Langley, VA, lobby! Turns out they are recruiting, so I dropped them a resume. First, I have to pass a background check. We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, expect more coverage from Austin to come here in Radio Ink!

Charese Fruge’ is an award-winning Content, Broadcast, and Marketing executive with over 20 years of experience in markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, San Diego, and Las Vegas. As the owner of MC Media, she works with radio brands and individual talents, especially young women, helping them grow their brands and negotiate on their own behalf. Find her at @MCMediaOnline.


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