China-headquartered Tencent Music Entertainment – which operates music services QQ Music, Kugo and Kuwo – is doubling down on AI.
Last fall, the company said it had created more than 1,000 tracks that contain vocals created by AI tech that can imitate the human voice.
This “patented voice synthesis technology,” called Lingyin Engine, can “quickly and vividly replicate singers’ voices to produce original songs of any style and language.”
One of those songs, whose name translates as Today, “has become the first song by an AI singer to be streamed over 100 million times across the internet,” TME Executive Chairman Cussion Pang told analysts on a call last November.
Now, TME is moving forward with more initiatives involving AI – including the possibility that it will launch AI music making-tools that it says will “help reduce the barrier to music creation’” for artists.
On TME’s Q1 earnings call, held on Tuesday (May 16), the company emphasized AI and specifically AIGC’s (Artificial Intelligence Generated Content) ability to expand musicians’ capabilities, rather than the possibility that it could replace musicians altogether.
(Incidentally, TME’s earnings for Q1 2023 were earnings little short of spectacular: The company grew its paid subscriber base by 17.7% YoY, to 94.4 million, and revenues from online music services soared by 33.8% YoY, to RMB 3.50 billion (USD $510m). If there was a dark spot to be found anywhere, it’s that its mobile music monthly active user count fell 6.9% YoY, to 592 million.)
“These innovations are designed to further enrich our platform’s content, creating tremendous opportunities for us to meet users’ diverse and nuanced music tastes and social needs in new and exciting ways.”
Ross Liang, Tencent Music Entertainment
TME’s execs cast AI as a way to enable artists to create music more efficiently, as well as giving fans more opportunity to connect with their favorite music and artists.
“We’ll be looking into developing a chatbot, where users can chat… about the kind of music they like to listen to, and to discover new content,” TME CEO Ross Liang said, in response to a question about the company’s AI plans from Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Lei Zhang.
“We’ll be cooperating closely with [parent company] Tencent to develop applications based on their LLMs, as well as to work with open source LLMs to develop other applications such as those around image creation,” Liang continued.
Liang added: “Similar to Google’s music LLM, we’ll look to provide tools to help musicians significantly reduce the barrier to music creation and lower the cost and to improve efficiency, to help them with song creation as well as lyrics writing.”
That’s a reference to MusicLM, an AI tool that Google introduced in January and made available to the public this month, which can generate high-fidelity music from a text prompt.
According to a research paper published by Google engineers, MusicLM can also create songs from snippets of melody that are whistled or hummed.
But for all the attention MusicLM has been getting, it’s not the first generative AI capable of creating songs.
Users of AI music creation platform such as Boomy for example, have created 14.4 million songs, which, the firm claims, accounts for “around 13.78% of the world’s recorded music”.
So is TME planning to create an AI music-making platform to rival the likes of Google’s MusicLM or Boomy?
That’s hard to say, given the scant details offered on Tuesday’s earnings call, but one thing is clear: TME is all-in on AI’s potential.
“Through ongoing exploration of large language models (LLMs), we have invigorated our platform ecosystem with a broader range of AI-generated content (AIGC) applications,” CEO Ross Liang said in a statement.
“This endeavor allows us to improve musicians’ efficiency in the key steps of music production as well as to provide users with a more dynamic and interactive user experience. These innovations are designed to further enrich our platform’s content, creating tremendous opportunities for us to meet users’ diverse and nuanced music tastes and social needs in new and exciting ways.”
TME is not the only China-based technology and entertainment giant exploring AI-powered music-making tools.
MBW recently spotted that TIkTok parent company ByteDance was looking for a Product Manager in Los Angeles to join a team that is “working on an AI-powered tool that provides intelligent music creation and audio editing capabilities”
The job ad explained further that the app’s “vision” is “to significantly lower the music creation barrier and inspire musical creativity and expression, further enriching the music content”.Music Business Worldwide