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2019 marks the first record deal signed with an algorithm ever

By Audrey Popa

Apr 9, 2019

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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.