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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em: Universal Music Group Partners With ‘Sound Wellness’ App Endel to Create Songs Using ‘Ethical AI’

Even as a growing number of unauthorized artificial intelligence tracks are debuting – while non-infringing AI releases also continue to pour onto streaming services in droves – Universal Music Group (UMG) has formally unveiled a deal “to create AI-powered, artist-driven functional music.”
The Big Three label, which is reportedly coordinating with the other majors on an artificial intelligence “takedown notice” system for streaming services, announced its foray into AI music today. As part of the “first of its kind” endeavor, UMG is collaborating with self-described AI “sound wellness company” Endel. (Republic’s James Blake went ahead and released an hour-long Endel soundscape called Wind Down last year.)

Headquartered in Berlin, the platform arrived on the scene in 2018, partnered with Warner Music Group (WMG) in 2019, and according to its website boasts north of one million monthly active users (MAUs) at present. Said MAUs can access features designed to help them fall asleep, “focus faster and maintain” their concentration, and “relax and recharge,” all with the assistance of “soundscapes backed by science,” the site shows.

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

And under the just-detailed union, Universal Music Group says it’s poised to capitalize upon “Endel’s proprietary AI technology to enable” certain of its acts to put out soundscapes, encompassing “both new music and new versions of catalog music.”
Bearing in mind the initially highlighted emergence of unauthorized AI projects, Universal Music has made a point of emphasizing that the tie-up “will always respect creators’ rights and put artists at the center of the creative process.”

“When crafting static albums, artists and their teams have the final sign off on the results they prefer,” claimed UMG, which called out “generic music that lacks a meaningful artistic context” in the not-so-distant past. “These soundscapes provide artists and rights holders new opportunities to generate additional revenue for their catalogs, while expanding and enhancing their work into new areas and moments in fans’ lives and aspiring to support wellness for the listener.”

Addressing the soundscape-centered partnership, UMG chief digital officer Michael Nash drove home the idea that his company – which invested in AI music-generation startup Soundful in April of 2022 – believes “in the incredible potential of ethical AI.”
“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,” Nash indicated in part.

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

“Today, seeing our technology being applied to turn your favorite music into functional soundscapes is a dream come true,” communicated the BUBL founder Stavitsky. “We’re extremely excited to put Endel AI to work and help UMG build new and exciting offerings to promote wellness and banish the perceived threat around AI.”

Worth noting in conclusion is that Wave co-founder and CEO Adam Arrigo as well as former Warner Music Group CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. sit on Endel’s board, with the latter individual’s Waverley Capital having led 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).

Though users can choose from several provided options to determine the price they’ll pay for a week-long trial, the service will thereafter cost $14.99 per month, $89.99 per year when billed annually, or $249.99 for a lifetime subscription, per Endel’s website.