Popgun is just one of a number of technology startups exploring the potential of A.I. and what it could mean for humans — both professional musicians and those of us who can barely bang a tambourine in time alike. Startups include Jukedeck, Amper Music, Aiva, WaveAI, Melodrive, Amadeus Code, Humtap, HumOn, AI Music, Mubert, Endel, and Boomy, while teams from Google, Sony, IBM, and Facebook are also looking at what A.I. music can do now and what it could do in the future.
Quick and cheap backing tracks
The first real commercial use for A.I.-generated music is as a quick and affordable way to knock up a track to use for a YouTube vlog or corporate video without having to license it from a record label, publisher, or production music library.
With Jukedeck’s Make tool, you pick a genre, mood, track duration, and optional “climax” point. Then you can tweak the instruments and tempo and see what comes out. Tweak the parameters and have another go. This is music to fulfill a purpose, and it’s cheap: Downloading your track and using it on a royalty-free basis costs 99 cents if you’re an individual or a small business, but it’s free if you give credit to Jukedeck. Larger businesses pay $21.99; there’s also an option to buy the copyright for a track outright.
The amount of video being created for social networks and video services, as well as for corporate use, is exploding, and so is the need for original music for all that content. Production libraries like Epidemic Sound focus on YouTubers, while a startup called Lickd is trying to make label-signed music easier to license for video creators. But A.I. is already showing potential to compete against humans on cheap backing tracks, as the startup Aiva is doing. Another startup, called Melodrive, is doing a similar thing for gaming, using technology that “composes an infinite stream of original, emotionally variable music in real time” — meaning it adapts to what’s happening on the screen. Eventually, we could see A.I. music composers being added to our social video apps or photo slideshows, giving us instant ambient music.
Creative foils and songwriter tools
The threat to human jobs has long been at the center of the A.I. debate, including within the music industry. All these startups have polished arguments about how A.I. can be a tool to enhance human musicianship, rather than replace it.
Amadeus Code claims to “enhance your songwriting with artificial intelligence” and is squarely aimed at people who are already writing and recording music. Its pitch: “Get unstuck with your songwriting with the power of artificial intelligence and say goodbye to writer’s block for good.” The app creates melodies and even entire songs inspired by existing tracks. A new app, called Alysia, developed by WaveAI, will even compose lyrics alongside its music.