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AI tackled at Country Radio Seminar. #CRS2024


What A Difference A Year Makes: Are Radio’s AI Fears Thawing?


Last March, an “emergency” last-minute early-morning session was convened at CRS 2023. The prognosis and mood of the packed room was bleak. One year later, a follow-up town hall at CRS 2024 is showing a vastly different atmosphere – how much fear is still there?


Industry leaders Fred Jacobs, Zena Burns, Buzz Knight, and Mike McVay joined together to lead the discussion, which kicked off with the first public look as Jacobs Media’s latest Techsurvey results. Techsurvey highlighted a gap in understanding AI among country music fans, revealing that while a majority are unfamiliar with AI, there’s a significant concern over its rapid development and potential impact on areas such as the 2024 elections.


Interestingly, the survey also indicated a strong call for governmental regulation of AI technologies for a fanbase that typically leans hands-off, legislatively speaking.


Burns emphasized the importance of embracing AI, suggesting that beyond its application in voice technologies, AI offers a broad spectrum of opportunities for innovation in radio. Knight pointed to ethical considerations and the importance of applying common sense in AI deployment, citing examples from Disney research labs and Google’s Gemini project.


Practical applications of AI already being used by those in the room included creating artist voice IDs for radio, utilizing AI for voice tracking remotely, and generating content for on-air contests and promotions. One sizeable innovation mentioned was the use of AI to replace a morning host on a smaller station, which initially faced challenges but has since seen improvement without losing advertisers or listeners.


Attendees shared experiences of using AI for creative projects, such as generating unique images and producing sweepers for radio shows.


Conversation also touched upon the importance of understanding how to craft effective AI prompts, with cautions about accuracy of information remaining.


So what’s the consensus?


Zena Burns told Radio Ink, “This year, the CRS AI town hall revealed that the industry is way more ready to accept AI, and the biggest challenge is not its existence, but learning how to use it effectively. I’m grateful that CRS is always not only willing but eager to discuss the tough topics.”


Fred Jacobs echoed those thoughts, saying, “It was a 180 from last year. Instead of fear and loathing over AI, the vibe was overwhelmingly practical. Broadcasters are looking for ways to support their efforts with AI rather than running away from this technology. It was pretty heartening.”


Buzz Knight told us in closing, “The AI Town Hall showcased what I hope is a pivotal moment in the radio industry’s yearning and learning about the applications of artificial intelligence. All of us who were part of the town hall knew going in that there is a lot of fear about the damage that can be done to careers and to any business.”


“Our intention was to inspire conversation and to leave the room curious and open minded of the possibilities. For those that couldn’t be there, we found a room full of attendees who shared how AI is helping improve their efficiencies and the quality of their work. I certainly was thrilled to be part of it, but I’m even more thrilled that folks embraced this unique place in time we are living in.”


“Kudos to RJ Curtis and to moderator Mike McVay for tackling this sometimes gnarly topic.”


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