Universal Music Group Signs Deal With AI Startup Endel

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Universal Music Group (UMG) has announced a partnership with Endel, a company that uses AI to generate soundscapes meant to facilitate work, meditation, and sleep. UMG will license use Endel’s technology to enable its artists to create what it calls “science-backed” soundscapes designed to “enhance listeners’ wellness.” The deal includes both new music and new versions of catalog music.

Endel’s model factors in variables like weather, time of day, location, and heart rate when customizing its audio streams for individual users. Previous collaborations include projects with Grimes, Miguel, Richie Hawtin, and UMG artist James Blake.

In a statement, UMG’s chief digital officer Michael Nash said:

At UMG, we believe in the incredible potential of ethical AI as a tool to support and enhance the creativity of our artists, labels and songwriters, something that Endel has harnessed with impressive ingenuity and scientific innovation. We are excited to work together and utilize their patented AI technology to create new music soundscapes—anchored in our artist-centric philosophy—that are designed to enhance audience wellness, powered by AI that respects artists’ rights in its development.

The generative elements of Endel’s tech are designed to enable musicians to use AI to scale their music ad infinitum, creating perpetually regenerating artworks in their own style. “We’re able to create albums with the push of a button,” Endel’s co-founder and chief composer, Dmitry Evgrafov, told Pitchfork last year.

On April 14, a TikTok user uploaded a song called “Heart on My Sleeve,” which purported to use AI to simulate the style and voice of UMG artists Drake and the Weeknd. UMG responded with a takedown notice. Three days later James Murtagh-Hopkins, UMG’s senior vice president of communications, issued a statement condemning the use of copyrighted music to train AI models, calling on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music to block AI platforms from doing just that:

UMG’s success has been, in part, due to embracing new technology and putting it to work for our artists–as we have been doing with our own innovation around AI for some time already. With that said, however, the training of generative AI using our artists’ music (which represents both a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law) as well as the availability of infringing content created with generative AI on DSPs, begs the question as to which side of history all stakeholders in the music ecosystem want to be on: the side of artists, fans and human creative expression, or on the side of deep fakes, fraud and denying artists their due compensation.

These instances demonstrate why platforms have a fundamental legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists. We’re encouraged by the engagement of our platform partners on these issues–as they recognize they need to be part of the solution.

A person with a machine for a brainWill AI Take the Pleasure Out of Music?

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