The realm of music, as we know, is ever changing. The democratisation of streaming platforms, as well as the sheer content now available due to the Dot-Com Boom, has created mass music communities—making it available for everyone to create, and accessible for everyone to listen. So what’s next for the realm of entertainment? According to one global and robust label company, it’s music albums that don’t need musicians at all.
What was the last song you were listening to? How did it make you feel? Would you care if it was written by an algorithm? Paving the way into the future, Warner Music recently signed the first ever major music deal with an algorithm. The application itself is called Endel, a German mood music app with a mission to create personalised songs within “under-served genres” as the company describes.
The humans behind the product are a mix of artists, scientists and techies who have attracted the attention from now-investors Jillionaire from Major Lazor and the Amazon Alexa Fund. With five albums already released, the application is focused on creating tunes that take into consideration your own requirements, as well as time of day and weather. Fine tuning specifications add an interactive component for listeners—arguably a sort of creative process of its own. The application’s current albums are focused on producing content to help users with different types of sleep patterns, with impact metrics claiming to increase productivity and decrease anxiety. The accuracy of these metrics should be taken with a grain of salt but demonstrate a future blend of science-based and purpose-based approach to music.
In an era where we have begun personalising anything and everything around us, it was only a matter of time before technology seeped into making the realms of music in hopes of producing an efficient, purpose-driven, and client-specific final result. Though not yet possible, the future could feature perfectly catchy pop-bangers, or heartbreaking ballads generated just for you, within seconds. And as expected, the world of algorithmic music software and data-driven personalisation is just beginning to be explored, with tech giants like Google, Spotify and IBM all currently tinkering with AI software to better create music for future listeners.
Criticism of this form of scripted and robotic process—as expected—seems to focus on how this method of AI-generated music takes away from some of the key drivers that excite music lovers. Creativity, newness, and rawness all contribute to the idealistic image we have of our favourite artists. Music, much like any creative expression, is a reflection of our times—across politics, social advancement and global development. And naturally, the fear of an AI not being able to capture this perception is understandable. Will we like the songs a little less if we know they’re made by lines of script? Is it terrible if we don’t?
Within a few years, the personalised songs and the convenience and enjoyability will be something I’m sure myself, and millions of others will greatly appreciate. Looking back, we’ll assess how different the music landscape was, but I’m sure there will still be many similarities and values that hold true. The all-encompassing world of music demonstrates our society’s value of its creative potential. The idea that AI can do anything creative, and potentially better is unsettling. Though this fear may seem distant, the sci-fi potential is closer, and already more integrated than most assume.
Maybe, in the future, human creativity will be enhanced by AI technologies, with creations and products not yet imaginable. If that’s not the case, then hopefully, I can still find solace in knowing that even though the song itself wasn’t written by a human, at least the code was.
With 217 million monthly active users—and with this number set to grow—Spotify is undeniably top of the game in the streaming market. Considering these figures, the company has been extra efficient in monetising every aspect of the platform to make the highest profit out of its broad user base. With an array of different options—from sponsored playlists to video takeover—Spotify for Brands has been offering all kinds of ad experiences to its clients. Today, the streaming platform is testing yet another advertisement programme: voice-enabled audio ads, a new interactive feature that hasn’t been tested by any other platform yet.
The feature works on the premise that the audio advertisements that usually interrupt playlists on Spotify could be used to a greater extent by also offering listeners to switch to a playlist curated by the brand whose advertisement just played. How? With the use of voice command. The new marketing feature allows listeners to interact with the advertisement by saying a specific phrase while the commercial is playing. By saying out loud ‘Play now’ when prompted by an audio commercial, the listener could activate the curated playlist from the brand (which comes with more commercials) that will start streaming instead of what the person was previously listening to.
The feature, that only works if users have their microphone enabled, was launched on May 2 in the U.S. with Spotify Free users, just a few days after the company CEO Daniel Ek stated that the voice space is a “critical area of growth” for the company. Spotify is currently only testing out the feature with its own podcasts and an AXE audio commercial for Unilever.
Although voice commands are becoming ubiquitous within technology, many industry professionals have raised their concern on the functionality of this new project. “Voice commands are becoming second nature to us, just as swiping on a tablet or phone already is today,” told Leslie Walsh, executive director of strategy at agency Episode Four, to AdAge. Just because people are becoming increasingly accustomed to using their voices to activate and control a variety of home devices, doesn’t necessarily imply that users will be equally willing to interact with an advertisement. “While the ‘Play now’ voice command is a shiny new feature, as with all new shiny things in tech, brands need to make sure they have something of value to offer to listeners before jumping on it.” adds Walsh.
Spotify’s Audio Everywhere, the standard audio ad package offered by the streaming company, already allows brands to “Reach your target audience on any device, in any environment, during any moment of the day” as it reads on Spotify’s website. Today, the new feature enables brands not only to reach their target audience anywhere, but also to measure how effective their ads are based on the users’ immediate reactions to them. To do so, brands have to be particularly efficient in producing relevant and engaging content for both the audio advertisement and its following playlist. Something that has yet to be proven possible.
Spotify’s ‘Play now’ feature is not groundbreaking in terms of voice command technology, as both Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa enable to extend native applications through the use of the voice. But as Tom Edwards, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Epsilon, explains, “The Spotify experience adds a monetization angle to that experience.” The streaming platform’s new experiment is reducing the distance between clients and advertisers. Spotify is asking its users to literally answer to advertisements, and whether this will be a successful feature or not, one thing is certain: this project is paving the way for a whole new advertisement era that will see listeners playing an increasingly active role within the brands’ marketing strategies.