The first chatbots were developed in the 1960s, long before smartphones and messaging apps had the world’s eyeballs transfixed.
This isn’t a new technology, but it’s certainly a hot one in 2016 thanks to Facebook, Microsoft and other tech companies throwing their weight behind the idea of bots capable of chatting to humans within messaging apps, then doing our bidding.
More than 30,000 chatbots have been created for Facebook Messenger, and 20,000 for Kik, with Skype, Telegram, WeChat and Line all getting into the bots game too.
Music has a role to play here. In fact, there are already quite a few music-related chatbots on the loose. Here are 10 of the most interesting ones we’ve seen this year, and an eleventh that anticipated the trend… by 15 years.
Note, many of these chatbots are simple, and in some cases a bit…
spammy needy. This is an experimental phase for this kind of tech: some of the lessons to be learned here are about what not to do, but there are plenty of positive aspects too.
Dance star Hardwell’s official bot isn’t just for telling fans about new releases and live dates. It wants them to talk back: voting for his Track Of The Week and submitting shout-outs to his radio show. In its first two weeks, 60,000 fans chatted to the bot, generating more than 1m interactions according to developer We Make Awesome Sh.
Available on Facebook Messenger and Kik so far, Record Bird’s chatbot aims to keep keen music fans up-to-date on new releases, as they’re announced. Fans can also ping specific artists to see if they’re about to release something. The startup has also launched an app in recent months.
This isn’t an official Justin Bieber chatbot, but rather an unofficial bot created by startup Sequel to show off its technology. The bot takes on the role of Justin, though, chattering away about his recent news – tabloid rumours included. In its first week, the bot exchanged 3m messages with fans on Facebook Messenger and Kik.
This bot IS official: part of the marketing campaign for the British band’s new album, and based on the fictional “evil” WW Comms corporation that’s been at the heart of the campaign. It’s been a way for fans to hear about the new album and music. “I think we’re about to make a massive move into AI and messaging. It is happening now. This isn’t in three or five years’ time,” Luke Ferrar from label Virgin EMI Records UK told us.
“Lookin’ for a good party? Ask Karl,” explains the website for this Facebook Messenger bot. Karl’s job is to deliver personalised gig recommendations to the music fans that message him. “when you go out of work on a Thursday, just ping Karl, and he will algo-pick the best concerts and parties in town and hook you up,” explain his New York-based creators. It’s early days, but an interesting idea.
Rithm started life as a music messaging app, but has pivoted into a startup marrying music and messaging for clients in both of those industries. One of its services is creating chatbots, and its bot on Kik is a good showcase. People can search its catalogue for songs to share with friends.
Another concert recommendations chatbot: a spin-off from the app of the same name, which sits in a similar space to Songkick and Bandsintown’s apps. Fans send it their location and then get concert recommendations back.
This is another artist chatbot: an official bot for Redfoo out of LMFAO, offering “music, merch and live chat”. And, as it turns out when you ask about individual songs, Wikipedia entries. Fans can even type ‘Ride with Foo’ to connect their Uber account: “The next time you’re in an Uber, I’ll message you with music for your ride!” explains FooBot.
Another Facebook Messenger bot, and another that started life as a social music app before spotting an opportunity in chatbots. AudioShot is almost Shazam-like with its ability to identify songs recorded using your microphone, although you can also type in titles. Once songs are found, you can listen to them and share with friends.
The Brazilian startup behind this bot is creating themed playlists for music-streamers. Its chatbot offers another way in to its collection: ask it for a music genre or artist, and it’ll suggest a playlist. It’s not available here in the UK yet, so we haven’t been able to rate the playlist quality yet.
“This is kinda like an app but inside Messenger,” explains Christina’s official bot. It’s not wrong: this is a simple way to access Milian’s music, videos and social feeds, as well as being walked through a Q&A interview, and requesting a “digitally signed autograph” as a keepsake.
This was a chatbot built by Capitol Records for Radiohead in 2001, which lived on AOL’s Instant Messenger (AIM) desktop app. Fans could add it to their buddy lists and then ping it questions about the band and their (then) new album Amnesiac. By its retirement in March 2002, GooglyMinotaur had talked to more than one million fans. Read this memorial by Robin Sloan Bechtel and this oral history of GooglyMinotaur for more on the project.