Universal will produce music with artificial intelligence

Universal will produce music with artificial intelligence

A few weeks ago, Universal blocked the release of a video made by an artificial intelligence that combined the voices of two of its artists to create a new song. Yesterday it announced a deal with Endel, a small music production company in Berlin that makes music using artificial intelligence. For now, at least, no big chart hits will come of it like she promised to be Heart on my sleeve by Drake and The Weeknd, because Endel specializes in a very specific, albeit vast field: creating soundscapes for everyday activities such as sleep, relaxation and concentration. But for the relationship between the music industry and artificial intelligence it is a crucial stage, a bit like the transition from Napster to iTunes. The era of the pioneers ends, the era of the majors begins: under the agreement, the companies will use Endel's proprietary AI technology to allow UMG artists to create completely new music or songs born from catalog music. “The partnership - reads a statement released by Universal and Endel - will always respect the rights of creators and will place artists at the center of the creative process”. Here it is worth noting that Universal is the first musical group in the world, with about 37.5% of the global market in 2022.

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Michael Nash, EVP, Chief Digital Officer of Universal Music Group, said: "At UMG, we believe in the incredible potential of ethical AI as a tool to support and enhance the creativity of our artists, labels and songwriters, which Endel has harnessed with impressive ingenuity and scientific innovation.We are thrilled to work together and use their patented AI technology to create new musical soundscapes - anchored in our artist-centric philosophy - designed to enhance the well-being of audiences, powered by AI that respects the rights of artists in its development". In the coming months, Universal will announce the first series of soundscapes under the new deal. Endel had previously worked with James Blake, whose ambient soundscape Wind Down was released as an album in May 2022, but also has Miguel and Grimes in its catalog, among many other artists.

The startup

Endel uses artist-provided sounds to create musical landscapes guided by scientific insights into how music affects our mental state. When creating static albums, artists and their teams have final approval on the results they prefer. But be careful, because Endel is essentially an app, available for iOS, Android, Mac, Amazon Alexa, wearables, Apple TV. “The ecosystem has over one million monthly active users, who listen to one and a half million hours a month,” reads the site. “Endel has partnered with Mercedes-Benz Group Research, All Nippon Airways, Nura, Oura and others. In 2020, Endel became the Apple Watch App of the Year and recently received the Google Play Best of 2021 award. So soundscapes can essentially have two forms: the finite one of the album, or the infinite one of the app, which generates music by combining various sounds with the help of artificial intelligence algorithms.

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The previous

As always, Brian Eno got there first. The English musician has been talking about generative music since at least the time of Discreet Music (1975), made starting from fragments of Canon by Johann Pachelbel, playing them at different speeds and with different string instruments. And in 2017 he had published Reflection, a 54-minute song that was perhaps the least interesting part of a project fully realized in the homonymous app for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV: infinite music that transforms itself infinitely. Listening to it, says Eno himself in the liner notes, "is like sitting next to a river, which is always the same but always changes".

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New earning opportunities

The one of Reflection it is music for thinking, but far from the mystical and aestheticizing suggestions of the new age: just like the soundscapes of Endel. “Our goal has always been to help people focus, relax and sleep with the power of sound,” explains CEO Oleg Stavitsky. “Artificial intelligence is the perfect tool for this. Today, see our technology applied "To turn your favorite music into functional soundscapes is a dream come true. We are extremely excited to put Endel AI to work and help UMG build exciting new offerings to advance wellbeing and rethink the perceived threat around AI." And so these soundscapes offer artists and rights holders new opportunities to generate additional revenue for their catalogues, expanding their work into new areas and moments in fan life, while also aspiring to sustain well-being for the listener.

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Functional music

There is another relevant aspect of the agreement between Endel and Universal: the awareness that a market for functional music exists and is large. Functional music was born, as the name suggests, to enrich and optimize daily activities, such as reading, running or sleeping. Extensive research has demonstrated the impact of music on mental health and well-being, including concentration, athletic performance, and sleep hygiene and quality. And so it represents one of the largest subcategories of music listening worldwide, with around 15 billion streams per month across all music platforms.

Until now, the genre has been characterized by low-quality, low-artistic offerings, but now musicians are able to use the aesthetic code of functional music to further expand and reimagine their work using AI technology that was ethically created. to enhance, rather than exploit copyrighted works to create derivative generative soundscapes. “Endel enables music companies like UMG to tap into the amazing capabilities of artificial intelligence and functional music, while respecting the rights of their artists,” reflects Stavitsky. "In this way, Endel acts more like a collaborator than a tool, giving artists control and freedom, while satisfying a real market need."

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