If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em: Universal Music Group partners with Sound Wellness app Endel to create songs with Ethical AI

Photo credit: Tony Webster / CC from 3.0

Even as more and more unauthorized tracks powered by artificial intelligence are hitting the market — while non-infringing AI releases continue to flock to streaming services — Universal Music Group (UMG) has officially announced a deal “to bring AI-powered to create artist-driven titles that are “functional music.”

The Big Three label, which is reportedly coordinating with the other majors on a “takedown notice” scheme for artificial intelligence streaming services, today announced its foray into AI music. As part of the “first of its kind” project, UMG is collaborating with self-proclaimed AI “sound wellness company” Endel. (Republic’s James Blake released an hour-long Endel soundscape titled Relax last year.)

Headquartered in Berlin, the platform launched in 2018, partnered with Warner Music Group (WMG) in 2019, and currently has more than one million monthly active users (MAUs) according to its website. Said MAUs can access features designed to help them fall asleep, “focus and maintain focus faster,” and “relax and re-energize,” all using “science-backed soundscapes,” the site reveals .

“The technology takes input from the user’s movement, time of day, weather, heart rate, location, and other factors,” says Endel explained at the unveiling of a $15 million Series B in April 2022. “It then uses AI to generate personalized soundscapes that adapt to changes in real time.”

And as part of the agreement just detailed, Universal Music Group says it is willing to benefit from “Endel’s proprietary AI technology to enable certain of its acts to create soundscapes that include “both new music and new versions of catalog music include.

Given the initially highlighted appearance of unauthorized AI projects, Universal Music has made it clear that the collaboration will “always respect the rights of creators and put artists at the heart of the creative process.”

“When creating static albums, artists and their teams have final approval of the results they prefer,” claimed UMG, which not long ago pointed out “generic music that lacks a meaningful artistic context.” “These soundscapes offer artists and rights holders new opportunities to generate additional revenue for their catalogues, while expanding and enhancing their work into new areas and moments in fans’ lives and promoting listener well-being.”

Speaking about the soundscape-focused partnership, Michael Nash, UMG’s Chief Digital Officer, expressed the idea that his company – which invested in AI music generation startup Soundful in April 2022 – “is capitalizing on the incredible potential of ethical AI” believes.

“We’re excited to collaborate and leverage their patented AI technology to create new music soundscapes – anchored in our artist-centric philosophy – designed to enhance audience wellbeing, powered by AI that respects the rights of the public in their development Artists respected,” Nash said in part.

Meanwhile, Endel CEO Oleg Stavitsky, in his own remarks, expressed his belief that the UMG deal will help “banish the perceived threat surrounding AI.”

“Seeing today how our technology is used to transform your favorite music into functional soundscapes is a dream come true,” he shared BLADDER Founder Stavitsky. “We are very excited to bring Endel AI to life and help UMG create new and exciting offerings to promote wellbeing and end the perceived threat of AI.”

Finally, it’s worth noting that Wave co-founder and CEO Adam Arrigo, as well as former Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr., sit on Endel’s board of directors, with the latter’s Waverley Capital spearheading the aforementioned Series B. The Five-Year-Old app is available on iOS, Android, and Amazon Alexa devices (with standalone options for Apple TV users and Apple Watch owners).

Although users can choose from several options offered to determine the price they pay for a week-long trial, after that, according to Endel’s website, the service costs $14.99 per month, $89.99 per year when billed annually or $249.99 for a lifetime subscription.