What Is Radio In 2024?—iHeartMedia’s Rahul Sabnis Chimes In

rahul sabnis answers what is radio in 2024 for DMN Pro event
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rahul sabnis answers what is radio in 2024 for DMN Pro event
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Photo Credit: Rahul Sabnis

Get ready: Digital Music News is hosting an upcoming event for DMN Pro subscribers focused on the state of radio in 2024. Yesterday, we shared that industry veteran will.i.am will be joining the discussion as a panelist—but other industry heavyweights, including iHeartMedia EVP & Chief Creative Officer Rahul Sabnis, will also be sharing actionable insights.

Rahul says before joining iHeartMedia, he didn’t fully appreciate the significance that radio plays in our daily lives. “In an era consumed by AI, social media, and the latest marketing trends—radio stands out for its resilience, a consistent direct line from one to many,” Rahul tells Digital Music News. “When our show’s host speaks to listeners, it creates a sense of companionship, providing comfort in an increasingly isolated world.”

In his role at iHeartMedia, Rahul is tasked with inspiring creativity and helping brands connect with the vast portfolio of assets under the iHeartMedia umbrella. His award-winning marketing campaigns have connected brands with audiences for years, while his contributions have been recognized numerous times by industry organizations like the Cannes Lions, Effies, Webby Awards, and W3 Awards. Rahul is committed to mentoring the next generation of creatives, volunteering his time with various universities.

Spotify is experimenting with ‘mimicking’ the companionship of radio DJs with its own AI DJ, which it introduced in February 2023. Using the voice of Spotify’s Head of Cultural Partnerships, Xavier ‘X’ Jernigan, the AI DJ can drop info about the tracks you’re listening to in the style of a music-focused morning show.

This take on a DJ powered by artificial intelligence goes beyond scouring user histories to surface old favorites. It also announces some songs, provides facts about those songs, and offers some background on the genre of music —all in the style of a local radio DJ. As music streaming has become the ubiquitous way the public audience interacts with music, it seeks to emulate more of the intimate formats first developed as radio programming.

Rahul says his work with iHeartMedia helps highlight how the medium is not just an object or media channel, but is an essential service in helping humanity feel less alone in the world. And if Spotify’s AI DJ is any indication—it’s that humans crave a more personal connection while listening to music—even if that personal connection is artificial and powered by large language models.

Spotify’s AI DJ is created using Sonatic, a synthetic voice creation technology that utilizes AI to process a few hours of voice sample. Sonatic then applies an algorithm to apply intonation, inflection, and projection to create a voice model that sounds like the sample it was trained on.

Using large language model (LLM) capabilities like ChatGPT can be used to generate text descriptions of songs, facts about the music, and the AI voice model ‘reads’ the script in the newly generated voice while inserting tone, inflection, and pauses to mimic human speech.

While Spotify is pioneering an AI DJ driven by LLM prompting, will.i.am is experimenting with an AI-driven co-host called Qd.pi (pronounced cutie-pie) on his SiriusXM show, ‘will.i.am Presents the FYI Show.’ “I’m ultra-freaking colorful and expressive. [Qd.pi is] ultra-freaking factual and analytical,” will.i.am told The Hollywood Reporter when the show launched. “And that combination, we ain’t seen in the history of freaking broadcasts anywhere.”

Want to learn more about the state of radio in 2024? Tune in for the DMN Pro event ‘What Is Radio in 2024?’ on April 25.

Other participants for this upcoming event discussing every aspect of radio include:

  • Joel Denver | Founder, All Access Music Group
  • RJ Curtis | Executive Director, CRB
  • Mike Huppe | CEO of SoundExchange
  • will.i.am | Producer, Award-winning Artist, & Technophile Futurist
  • Lee Abrams | Commander, Lee Abrams MediaVisions
  • Paul Resnikoff | Publisher, Digital Music News

When Is It?

This Digital Music News event is taking place April 25 at 11 am PT / 2 pm ET.