Welcome to the future: Spotify poaches AI music expert from Sony

On any given day, this is interesting news. In the context of what we’ve previously reported this week, this is fascinating news.

MBW has learned that Spotify has hired François Pachet – one of the world’s foremost experts on the application of Artificial Intelligence in the world of popular music.

Or in simpler – perhaps scarier? – terms: music written by computers.

Pachet is currently understood to be waiting out his contract as the Director of the Sony Computer Science Laboratory in Paris, where he leads the music research team. He has worked at Sony for 20 years.

In 2012, Pachet oversaw a project which created the first known pop songs composed with AI, as well as launching the first music label dedicated to the professional use of AI for music production.

Earlier this year, Pachet’s Sony team released two pop songs created using AI – Daddy’s Car, in the style of The Beatles, and The Ballad Of Mr Shadow, in the style of American songwriters such as Irving Berlin and Duke Ellington.

There’s been much debate in the past few days about MBW’s use of the term ‘fake artists’ to describe the secret pseudonyms of producers on Spotify, whose tracks have attracted hundreds of millions of plays on the platform.

We’d suggest that debate just kicked up a notch, wouldn’t you?

Pachet (pictured) has titanium credentials in the world of computer science and how it intersects with audio art.

In the four years leading up to 1997, he was Assistant Professor in Artificial Intelligence at UPMC.

His inventions have included ReflexiveLooper – a system that learns in real time the style of a musician and automatically generates accompaniments – as well as EDS, ‘the first audio feature generation system’, which is now fully owned by Sony Corp.

Pachet is also the co-creator of Flow Composer, the tech underpinning the two AI-penned pop music compositions released by Sony earlier this year.

Flow Composer has evolved to become Flow Machines at Sony, with a fully AI-written pop album expected for release before 2018.

As Sony wrote in a blog earlier this year “our Flow Machines software learns music styles from a huge database of songs… then, exploiting unique combinations of style transfer, optimization and interaction techniques, it can compose in any style”.

You’re waiting for the ‘2+2 = 4’ moment, aren’t you?

As MBW has revealed this week, Spotify has deliberately stuffed many of its playlists with music recorded by fake artists – aka. the anonymized aliases of select producers.

If, as many suspect, this move has a financial benefit to Spotify, what’s the next obvious step?

Could the company soon begin upstreaming AI-created music onto its hugely popular mood, genre and activity-based playlists?

Yes and no.

Pachet’s technology is certainly capable of spitting out reams of bespoke music for a ‘Peaceful Piano’ playlist, for example. Or ‘Ambient Chill’, or ‘Yoga & Meditation’ or ‘Sleep’, for that matter.

But even those bleeding-edge Flow Machine pop compositions – Daddy’s Car and The Ballad Of Mr Shadow – required a human being (the very talented Benoît Carré) to arrange and produce the material after Sony’s tech had written it.

When contacted by MBW today for confirmation of Pachet’s impending arrival at Spotify, the company declined to comment.

However, an MBW spy close to the firm did verify our story, before telling us that Pachet is understood to have been tasked with developing “creator tools” at Spotify.

These tools, said our source, could eventually “help composers to become more effective, and help more people become composers”.

That bit is quite exciting in a ‘here’s the future of the music business’ way.

But there’s another key point to be made, too.

Some MBW readers recently saw Pachet speak on a panel at the BUMA Music in Motion conference.

He was apparently very clear: AI-written music inherently shouldn’t require any royalties to be paid to copyright holders after it is published.

Brace yourselves.Music Business Worldwide

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