Universal Music Group (UMG) has announced a strategic partnership with Endel, a generative AI sound wellness startup, to pioneer the creation of AI-powered, artist-driven functional music. Functional music, which includes genres like sleep, running, and relaxation, represents a significant portion of global music consumption, with an estimated 15 billion monthly streams across all music platforms.
Under this unique agreement, UMG and Endel will leverage Endel’s proprietary AI technology to empower UMG artists to reimagine their music. They will collaborate to develop science-backed soundscapes that enhance listeners’ wellness, utilizing both original compositions and new versions of existing catalog music.
Endel, based in Berlin, operates an AI-powered ecosystem of apps that generate personalized sounds to aid concentration, relaxation, and sleep. By incorporating user inputs such as movement, time of day, weather, heart rate, and location, Endel produces tailored soundscapes for individuals.
The company’s previous collaborations include producing 20 albums with Warner Music Group, making it the first major label to partner with an algorithm for album production. Additionally, Endel joined forces with Amazon Music for a playlist partnership in February.
UMG plans to unveil the initial wave of soundscapes resulting from its collaboration with Endel in the coming months. Notably, Endel has already worked with Republic Records’ artist James Blake, releasing his ambient Wind Down soundscape as an album in May 2022. Other prominent artists, including Miguel and Grimes, have also collaborated with Endel.
According to UMG and Endel, these artist-driven soundscapes present new revenue opportunities for artists and rightsholders in the functional music category. They aim to revolutionize the genre, which has faced challenges due to subpar offerings, by using AI technology ethically to create derivative generative soundscapes, thereby respecting copyrighted works.
UMG’s EVP and Chief Digital Officer, Michael Nash, expressed enthusiasm for the partnership, stating, “We believe in the incredible potential of ethical AI as a tool to support and enhance the creativity of our artists… that are designed to enhance audience wellness, powered by AI that respects artists’ rights in its development.”
Oleg Stavitsky, CEO of Endel, emphasized the importance of artist-driven AI and the positive impact it can have, saying, “Endel allows music companies like UMG to draw on the astounding capabilities of AI and functional music while respecting their artists’ rights… giving artists control and freedom while satisfying a real market need for more music that can support their wellbeing.”
UMG’s collaboration with Endel comes in the wake of a recent viral music industry incident involving generative AI, where platforms featured a track with AI-replicated vocals of Drake and The Weeknd. Both artists release their music through UMG and its subsidiary, Republic Records.
Addressing the potential for licensing sound recordings to AI companies, UMG Chairman and CEO Sir Lucian Grainge expressed openness to legitimate partnerships that respect artists and foster growth.
Click here to visit the Endel website.