UK record labels’ association, the BPI, today launches a new report that explores the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the potential this fast-emerging technology has to transform the composition, distribution and marketing of music.
Highlights from Music’s Smart Future: How will Artificial Intelligence impact the music industry?, which was written by music industry analysts Music Ally, were last night shared with industry executives attending the latest in the BPI’s series of Insight Sessions, the music industry forum which explores how emerging technologies are reshaping the music ecosystem.
The event featured presentations from record labels, such as Polydor Records, and companies including Jukedeck, Moodagent and IBM Watson, that are using AI across different aspects of their business ranging from music creation to marketing and music discovery.
The report introduction and case studies preceded a lively panel discussion, chaired by Music Ally’s Paul Brindley and including representatives from Sony Music Entertainment UK and Universal Music Group and tech company Quantone and law firm Reed Smith, which debated AI’s implications for the music industry.
Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards, comments “Artificial Intelligence is no longer the province of science fiction. This fast-emerging technology is beginning to transform how music is created, discovered, shared and enjoyed. AI is enabling the creation of hyper-personalised playlists using contextual data and deep analysis of the relationship between songs, while artists and labels are now using chatbots to engage fan-bases in campaigns. Algorithms are also beginning to influence the composition of music, as artists embrace the technology to enhance their own creativity. This raises profound questions about the nature of music and humans’ connection to it.
“Music’s DNA is closely entwined with technology and record labels are already exploring how AI can help to bring artists and fans closer together.”
2016 has witnessed a swell of investment and experimentation around AI and machine learning, with a big upswing in new tech-start-ups eager to redefine how we live our lives. The report – authored for the BPI by Music Ally’s Editor-in-Chief Stuart Dredge, and with a thought-provoking foreword by BPI & BRITs CEO Geoff Taylor – explores how AI is touching every facet of the music industry through four main areas:
The evolution of AI in music
The backdrop to AI’s increasing penetration of music is set out, including a look at some of its early RnD and first British AI start-ups, such as Jukedeck and Melodrive.
The emergence of bots that take requests on Twitter; WaveNet – technology generating speech that mimics any human voice; and Baidu AI Composer image-recognition software and neural networking that enables an image to be converted into a song.
Developments in AI-driven music composition on Flow Machines software; AI being used to create a music video for Brian Eno’s song The Ship; and Symphonologie, which uses AI to help create a symphony to be played by a human orchestra.
How record label A&R and marketing teams are using ‘big data’ analytics to predict consumer reactions and shape campaigns.
Gut instinct, passion for the music and human experience remain fundamental qualities in A&R and marketing, but the music sector should not ignore new tools that allow it to reach fans in exciting, new ways.
Humans and algorithms fuel smarter music recommendations
As streaming services grow, we are moving into a world of hyper-personalisation, in which consumers expect services tailored to their own tastes and preferences. The power of ‘big data’ can be employed to better understand human behaviours and provide a more individualised experience.
Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer all use AI to analyse users’ behaviour and to understand the relationship between songs so as to mix in new relevant tracks among a user’s favourites.
A new strain of AI technology has emerged that can take account of contextual data: Google Play now mixes signals like location and the weather with machine learning about a user’s music listening to offer the right song at the right time.
DJ apps which put traditional DJ decks onto touch-screen devices are on the rise: Pacemaker and Serato.
Chatbots find a place in the music industry
Messaging apps have become an essential part of our mobile lives, and chatbots are A hot new communications tool – and again, music companies are already experimenting with them.
Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other services are not new – the first chatbots were developed in the 1960s and 1970s, with the first music chatbot of note introduced by Radiohead and Capitol Records in 2001. However, their sophistication has now increased markedly.
They have become more important after Facebook opened up its Messenger platform to third-party chatbots in 2016. They are not just messaging apps, but platforms with hundreds of millions of users that developers can build on. Written bots will in time be supplanted by voice interactions.
Labels and artists are embracing AI to engage fanbases. Bastille and their label Virgin EMI used a Facebook’s Messenger chatbot in a campaign to promote the release of their new album Wild World, while Robbie Williams with the ‘Robbot’ and Olly Murs have created their own chatbots to engage fans.
Media platform MTV used chatbots to engage with European Music Awards viewers, while tickets service Ticketmaster uses the technology to recommend upcoming concerts to fans.
Smart voice assistants from the big tech titans
The human-computer interface is also developing quickly, with AI powering a new generation of ‘smart assistants’.
These include Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Assistant – which understand human commands and make it easier and more intuitive for consumers to access music online.
These smart assistants are likely to evolve into our de facto musical concierges around the home and in the car.