Music is Next.
Notes on the future of music creation
Creative AI has made great strides in the last few years. But it's definitely having its moment today. In the visual realm, tools like Dall-E and Stable Diffusion have enthralled some and terrified others. Within the writing world, you have incredible GPT-3 powered tools like Lex (huge ups to my friends at Every, Dan and Nathan! ).
Oh btw, Lex wrote one whole part of this essay—care to guess which one? ;)
Sequoia’s recently published map for Generative AI tools gives us a broader picture of the landscape:
Early-adopting music creator RAC tweeted recently:
His last words stuck with me. Music is next.
I’ve written about the state of music creation tools before. (excuse the dated Clubhouse example)
Photography had its Instagram moment; videography had its YouTube and TikTok moments; even audio had its Clubhouse moment—although it wasn’t music-related.
Why then, does the creation of short-form, user generated music remain so elusive?
When will we have disgruntled cynics like myself saying: “is everyone a musician now?”
Better music creation tools will definitely lead to a meritocratic creator economy—just like what the first wave of pioneering YouTubers who broke free of the capital-intensive, gatekeeper infested video production / film industry prompted. To be clear, the music creator economy won’t “disrupt” or “replace” anything. It will coexist with the mainstream music industry, just like YouTube coexists with Hollywood. Through AI-powered tools, music creators will have more optionality, and the barriers to entry will be lower than ever before. It will help the next generation of music creators create a true music creator economy!
Why is having a Music Creator Economy so important?
Recent news stated that more than 100,000 tracks are being uploaded on streaming services every day. More people than ever before are creating music. While that’s great, we’re quite far away from the magnitude of the “video creator economy.” For comparison, 3.7M videos are uploaded on YouTube every day. I couldn’t find a similar number for TikTok, but one thing I’m certain of is that it's much, much, higher than 100,000.
AI-assisted music creation tools could change everything though. They could bring us closer to the numbers we see in the video realm. Why is this number important though?
Having more humans creating music is important for the music industry. It's a strong promoter of aspiration. Aspiring YouTubers watched MrBeast’s videos to eventually become successful YouTubers themselves—going on to inspire the next generation of creators. Their social and financial success also enabled multiple unicorns and a thriving ecosystem of startups (including multiple unicorns) and broader innovation in the space, all towards building products and services that help these creators/entrepreneurs. A lower bar to creative expression and higher creative output is a great thing for every industry.
It also eventually blurs the line between mainstream success and indie/creator economy success. In a world where Will Smith can build a presence on TikTok, so can Taylor Swift on BandLab. Or a host of other music creator platforms.
Where are we at with AI-powered Music Creation?
My take on AI-powered music creation is that we're not there yet, but we’re definitely not too far off. Music creation may not require musical training very soon—just like creating a TikTok doesn’t require video production skills. Of course I’m talking about the craft of creation, and not the art of creation. Just because you can make a TikTok doesn’t mean you have the creativity to make a good one. The goal is equality of creative opportunity and freedom of creative expression—a world where everyone has access to tools that help them freely manifest their creativity. This is exciting!
Spotify, the music industry’s self-proclaimed savior, has also been bullish about the audio creator economy. It has invested heavily in developing AI-powered music creation tools that lower the barriers to music creation. This is a very smart move. Spotify understands how it can benefit from aspiration and its upstream effects.
Francois Pachet, director of AI research and development at Spotify, drew up a very interesting analogy while talking about Spotify’s music creation play. In an interview with Forbes, he compared it to the the instant cake mix story:
As the story goes, a food conglomerate in the 1950s boosted sales when they figured out that when you get the customer involved in the cooking, even a little, sales rise. They removed dried egg from an instant cake mix, so the customers – usually housewives back then – would have to add a fresh egg. “It was that bit of effort,” Pachet says, “so she could say she made the cake, that made all the difference.”
Spotify’s foray into the Metaverse via the Spotify Island on Roblox (which focuses on music creation as well—with virtual beat makers, etc. powered by its acquisition Soundtrap) indicates that the company is making calculated strides in this direction.
Similarly, Splash, a company that builds AI-powered music creation tools, launched their music creation game on Roblox and had ~8 million users create music via its toolkit. They raised a $20 million Series A funding round and are rapidly expanding their suite of tools for aspiring music creators.
What does the future of music creation look like?
Here are a few thoughts:
A big part of it will be empowered by AI, which will enable new forms of creativity that were previously unthinkable.
We will see a continued acceleration in the use of AI in music production, composition, and performance.
AI will increasingly be used to create and perform entire pieces of music, either autonomously or in collaboration with humans.
The lines between human and machine music-making will become increasingly blurred.
What does this mean for music creators?
It means that we need to be prepared for a future in which AI plays a major role in music creation. We need to start experimenting with AI now, to learn how to use it in our own creative practice. And we need to be open to the idea of AI becoming a major force in the future of music.
Maarten Walraven and I are starting a podcast! it’s called *surprise surprise* Appetite for Distraction and its about *surprise surprise* emerging trends in music x tech.
Why are we doing this?
It's an exciting time to be working in music. Tech is fundamentally changing the relationship between art and commerce. However, as with any new technology, you inevitably have dogmatic maxis on one side and cynical naysayers on the other.
Both sides present valid arguments. But they rarely ever talk to each other.
THIS is where the pod comes in.
We want to talk how technology is radically changing the music industry - but in a nuanced way - without being swayed by maxis or naysayers. We want to steel man rational arguments on both sides so we all reach intellectual high ground.
Maarten is the best human to do this with. He is one of the most insightful thinkers I know. You probably know him through his work writing Music X with Bas Grasmayer.
We really enjoyed jamming at Future Music Forum Barcelona and we wanted to keep the conversation going.
EP #1 is titled “Music NFTs Don’t Exist” we tackle a simple (?) question:
"why would someone want to own a piece of music today, when most of it is available on demand?”
Hope you find this meaningful!
What I’m Listening To:
Psyched to see her live in VLC next week!
What I’m Reading:
Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile - a vindictive choice given that I recently failed the notoriously hard Spanish driving test! FYI I’ve been driving all my life. I just need to get my Indian license converted to a Spanish one. Unfortunately however, driving in Spain and passing the Spanish driving test are two VERY separate realms.
Until next time,
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