Media Music Streaming Voice Assistant

Sony Music UK details how artists can forge fandoms using voice tech


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

September 4, 2020 | 5 min read

Sony Music UK is experimenting with interactive Q&As on Amazon's Alexa to drive deeper connections between fans and artists. Today, it has launched the ‘Number One Fan’ skill with Relentless Records’ Tom Walker who asks his fans probing, daily questions baited with the allure of exclusive prizes. Dorothy Hui of Sony Music UK’s tech lab, 4th Floor Creative, speaks to The Drum about the potential of voice tech in building the prominence of big stars.

Tom Walker

Sony Music UK details how artists can forge fandoms using voice tech

4th Floor Creative launched in spring 2018 and leans into the cutting edge of creative disciplines in music, like brand partnerships, sync, visual creative, podcasting, digital and audience development. It is probably best known for producing a Lovie-winning interactive Instagram video for Mark Ronson’s Pieces of Us. It also developed the first streaming-influenced merchandise collection in collaboration with RCA Records UK rock band Bring Me The Horizon.

Now, its latest project sees artists foster a more conversational relationship with fans through Amazon’s Alexa home assistant tech. The first of many quiz masters is Brit Award winner Tom Walker. He is on the hunt for his biggest fan, asking questions about his early life, music and life on tour. The rising star’s streams have just surpassed 2 billion, so there’s a growing band of fans to compete for the prizes.

The Alexa skill was developed because of increased usage of voice tech in the UK in lockdown, particularly when initiating song streams.

Walker has added an additional insight in the press release accompanying the launch, saying: “I had a lot of fun recording these questions and I know you’ve all been enjoying quizzing under lockdown.”

The skill scratches a few consumer itches, says Dorothy Hui, the vice-president of digital and audience development for Sony Music UK’s tech lab 4th Floor Creative, adding that it “helps artists amplify their narrative and develop their identity“.

Discussing the development of ’Number One Fan’, she says: “Getting an artist like Tom into a skill like this offers fans another way to experience another dimension of his personality and to test how they’ll engage with a voice-led music game.”

It will be marketed through Walker’s social media footprint and additional fan outreach. “The format tests fan knowledge, so our marketing plan focuses on engaging his most loyal and dedicated audience,” says Hui. This tool will naturally help the team discover who the biggest fans are.

“We’re viewing applications such as Alexa Skill as an extension of an artist’s channels and a way to grow and engage their audience. In the same way that an artist builds social profiles with conversations and content that expresses their personality and interests outside of music, voice technology is no different. It’s a way to get fans closer to the artist by hearing and interacting with their voice.

“Similar to how our label teams work with artists to develop content to showcase their personalities and values on Instagram, TikTok or Twitter, artists may also have signature sounds, whether via spoken word or audio hooks – like the old school jingle.”

Looking forward, the team is keen to pursue more opportunities in the voice-activated space. There is a generation of children growing up with voice tech normalized in their homes after all.

“Since the advent of advertising, modern marketing has relied on visual cues to drive action and strengthen brand loyalty,“ says Hui. “Teams across Sony Music UK are thinking about what will be required to market artists and music once voice becomes an increasingly common way of navigating and engaging with the world.”

To come will be a more conversational way of engaging with artists. “Conversational user interfaces will impact how we build artist brands and help fans discover new music. Voice technology is still in its relatively early days, so it will continue to mature and no doubt become seamlessly integrated into our homes and devices. We’ve got a lot to learn, but here at Sony Music UK we are focused on driving our learning agenda in voice technology and the ’Number One Fan’ skill contributes to that.”

You can see a demo of the tech below.

Media Music Streaming Voice Assistant

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