The digital and AI revolutions aren’t just changing how music is created and consumed – they’re also changing the very nature of music, and nowhere is that clearer than in the emergence of functional music.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen recording companies, streaming services and even live music and fitness companies jump into the functional music game.
While Peloton has piped music to its exercising subscribers, Deezer and Live Nation have developed their own meditation apps, while Universal Music Group has introduced a new “music-centric” wellness app, in partnership with Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global.
Some of the companies that have jumped into this space have done so via a partnership with Berlin-headquartered Endel Sound, an AI sound developer known for its wellness music app, Endel.
The latest company to partner with Endel is Warner Music Group’s EDM label Spinnin’ Records, which announced on Tuesday (October 17) that Endel will create 50 “mental health-boosting soundscape” albums “tailored for focus, relaxation, sleep, physical activity, and other functions.” They will be derived from the works of Spinnin-signed artists such as Brazilian DJ duo Felguk and Italian DJ duo VINAI.
According to WMG, Spinnin’ is the first label to activate its partnership with Endel, which began in 2019 with Endel releasing a series of albums for “Focus, Relax and On-the-Go” modes. That made Endel the first-ever algorithm to release music on a major label.
Warner describes the Spinnin-Endel partnership as “the first element in a larger strategic partnership… that will push how AI can ethically expand current and catalog artists’ creative scope and opportunities.”
The deal for 50 albums at Spinnin is Endel’s largest project to date. The first two albums are out now, with new albums scheduled to drop on a weekly basis. The releases will come out of the newly-created profile Spinnin’ COSMOS.
The deal will mark the first time that EDM’s estimated 1.5 billion fans worldwide “will have a whole range of functional music tailored to their tastes,” Spinnin said in a statement.
Warner Music CEO Robert Kyncl has been among the most vocal boosters of the AI revolution in music, but has also repeatedly stressed that the decision to engage with AI has to be artist-driven.
“Many Warner artists are already exploring impactful ways to use generative AI to create, augment, and remix their music. We have some great examples from big names on the way later this quarter,” Kyncl said during WMG’s Q2 earnings call in August.
“The thing that is important is that artists have a choice, because there are some that may not like it, and that’s totally fine. And then there are some that will embrace it, and that’s also fine. We have to make sure that… they have a choice and that something is not done to them, that [it] is done with them. And so that is my utmost priority here, because there’s nothing more precious to an artist than their voice, and protecting their voice is protecting their livelihood.”
“With this collaboration with Spinnin, we’ve transformed hundreds of tracks from their incredible catalog into life-enhancing albums and playlists at a huge scale while retaining the iconic sound of Spinnin Records and its artists.”
Oleg Stavitsky, Endel
Endel launched its app in 2018 and today runs a cross-platform “ecosystem” of AI-powered apps that can use personal inputs from the user’s movement, time of day, weather, heart rate, location, and other factors to produce personalized soundscapes.
Endel says its ecosystem has over a million monthly users, who listen, cumulatively, to a million and a half hours a month of Endel’s sounds.
Last year, the company raised $15 million from its series B funding round led by Roku investor Waverley Capital and True Ventures, an investor in Fitbit, Peloton, Blue Bottle Coffee, and Ring. It also has backing from the likes of Amazon Alexa and Avex Group.
In addition to its deal with WMG, Endel has also entered into a collaboration with Amazon for the former to produce wellness playlists using its AI tech. Earlier this year, Endel entered into “a first-of-its-kind strategic partnership” with Universal Music Group to create “AI-powered, artist-driven functional music.”
Of the deal with Spinnin, Endel Co-Founder and CEO Oleg Stavitsky said: “We’ve successfully worked with individual artists to transform their unique sound into functional music for focus, relaxation, and sleep. With this collaboration with Spinnin, we’ve transformed hundreds of tracks from their incredible catalog into life-enhancing albums and playlists at a huge scale while retaining the iconic sound of Spinnin Records and its artists.”
“This collaboration with Endel has allowed us to tap into [EDM’s] most life-enhancing qualities by using their technology and scientific know-how. It’s the sound of Spinnin, but in a whole new way – for relaxation, sleep, and more.”
Steven de Graaf and Susanne Hazendonk, Spinnin
In a column for MBW published earlier this year, Stavitsky laid out his vision.
“AI’s most groundbreaking role will likely be as a new medium that will shift music into more adaptive, responsive formats,” he wrote.
“We are surrounded by data: devices around us know our average heart rate and step count, our wake up and sleep time, our sex, age, chronotype, and menstrual cycle. Imagine feeding all this information into a generative AI model and adding artist stems into the system.
“What you get is music that lives and breathes with you. That adapts to when you wake up, the number of meetings you have, your current heart rate, circadian rhythm, and movement. That knows when to be barely audible, and when it’s time to shield you from the world.”
Founded in the late 1990s by Eelko van Kooten and Roger de Graaf, Spinnin’ Records has built up a roster of more than two dozen sub-labels and partnered with EDM artists such as Tiësto, Timmy Trumpet, Sam Feldt, Oliver Heldens, KSHMR, LUM!X, Gabry Ponte, Alok, Mike Williams, Blasterjaxx and others. Warner Music Group acquired the company in 2017.
“We’ve always believed in the transformative power of electronic music – from creating unforgettable experiences in clubs and festivals, to soundtracking the activities of listeners in their daily lives,” Spinnin Commercial Director Steven de Graaf and VP of Marketing Susanne Hazendonk said in a joint statement.
“Now this collaboration with Endel has allowed us to tap into its most life-enhancing qualities by using their technology and scientific know-how. It’s the sound of Spinnin, but in a whole new way – for relaxation, sleep, and more.”Music Business Worldwide