Taking a spot alongside names like Ed Sheeran, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Coldplay, a bundle of code is the newest addition to Warner Music Group, under a contract to release 20 albums this year.
Warner Music's newly created Arts Music division signed Endel's technology, and has become the first-ever record label with an algorithm.
Endel is an artificial intelligence program that creates personalised audio tracks aimed at boosting peoples mood and productivity. The company launched a little over a year ago in Europe, and has since become one of the companies chosen for Techstars Music's startup accelerator program in 2018.
Endel focuses on creating tailor-made sound frequencies based on personal user input such as time of day and location, as well as biometric details like heart rate. The core algorithm of the software takes thousands of sounds and assembles them into different template based on user inputs. They even launched a feature this week which allows users to receive custom sounds through Alexa-enabled devices.
Oleg Stavitsky, co-founder and CEO of Endel, wants to see an interconnected hardware-software ecosystem through which Endel, which will be able to keep tabs on the rhythm of users' daily lives via metrics like their driving patterns and the number events on their calender, which at the end of the day, the program will automatically use to create the best custom soundscape that will help them unwind.
“Warner approached us and we were hesitant at first because it counters what we’re doing here,” says Endel’s co-founder and sound designer Dmitry Evgrafov, “Our whole idea is making soundscapes that are real-time and adaptive. But they were like, ‘Yeah, but can you still make albums?’ So we did it as an experiment. When a label like Warner approaches you, you have to say ‘Why not.'”
The other 15 records on the contract are themed around focus, relaxation and “on-the-go” modes and will roll out over the course of the year. All 20 albums will come out of Endel’s core algorithm, so they were technically, as Evgrafov says, “all made just by pressing one button.”
Having an algorithm as the artist on the tracks has presented some unique challenges for Warner and the Endel team. “We had to hire a copyright lawyer to answer all these questions they were asking, like, ‘Who’s going to collect the mechanical royalties for you’ and ‘Whose names do we put on the copyright,'” Stavitsky recalls. “We are a collective of designers and sound engineers. We didn’t know these terms! We ended up putting in all the names of the software engineers as the songwriters.”
Stavitsky wants to reassure musicians that his company won't take their jobs. Artificial Intelligence and algorithm-based songwriting and music making projects is becoming more prominent in the industry, and is a topic of worry in some cases. "We don't see ourselves as competing with artists, or a replacement. Its flattering that Warner wanted to release our work as albums - but most of the sounds are not designed to be consciously listened to. They're supposed to help you by blending with the background."
Warner has released five of the 20 albums so far, a collection of "sleep soundscapes."
Find Endel's previously released works on Spotify and Apple Music.