Shutterstock is just the latest brand to jump into the royalty-free music world for brands and content creators – hot on the heels of YouTube and Apple Music. Taishi Fukuyama, Co-founder COO at Evoke Music, looks at the growing trend of big brands offering ‘free music for businesses’, and how machine-learning platforms are inventing a whole new category of music within a growing industry.
A solid brand audio identity can be a powerful tool for any organisation, and music is the most powerful element of this. The importance of having a distinctive ‘sound’ is fast becoming as important as having a recognisable appearance, particularly considering the growing popularity of the “audio first” strategy. This is true for brands of every size, from the smallest YouTubers to the biggest multinationals.
So it’s no surprise that the market providing music to business is booming, but largely to the detriment of the artists creating it. Content needs a soundtrack to truly bring it to life (for an excellent example of the power of the right soundtrack, I’d recommend this video here) but content creators across platforms like YouTube and TikTok don’t have enough time—or money—to license or commission backing soundtracks for every video they post.
YouTube hasn’t succeeded in creating a fully ‘royalty-free’ musiclibrary, though they’ve tried. So creators and brands have largely resorted to using stock music. This is set to be a long term trend, with market researcher Technavio predicting a CAGR of 6% for the stock music market for 2019-2023, with several audio industry leaders moving into the space. Apple has partnered with the PlayNetwork to launch Apple Music for Business – a service geared towards providing a fully licensed and customisable soundtrack for businesses. Shutterstock has also launched a music subscription service aimed at YouTubers, social media managers, and podcast producers.
To stock this growing number of libraries, a huge number of artists are using their time and talents to create music that is just good enough to provide an inoffensive backing track to accompany the vast amount of audio-visual content produced every day. This is a huge waste of creative talent, and to see so much of musician’s work be watered down to be synced to visual content is immensely disappointing. Although stock music can be high quality, and the next Yesterday or Sympathy For The Devil could conceivably begin as a backing track, it is extremely unlikely, and that is a shame.
This is where AI generated music comes into its own. AI music will never achieve the majesty of Bohemian Rhapsody, but for the purposes of stock music it doesn’t have to, which makes it perfect for businesses looking for something specific but not necessarily revolutionary. This places the value of human compositions back on its story-telling ability, something which AI cannot do, rather than its ability to provide an adequate backdrop for someone else’s work. Rather than expending their energy and talent creating music for royalty-free music libraries, musicians can reclaim the freedom, compose, distribute, and perform in a way that is meaningful, and brands can rely on AI powered alternatives to create the soundtracks that they need at scale.
This is not some far off prediction, Amazon’s AWS Deepcomposer already leverages AI to turn melodies into original songs, without forcing composers through the trials of understanding the AI and its underlying coding. As with human produced music though, any AIgenerated music’s success is still predicated on its ability to elicit an emotional response. While input parameters such as tempo, timbre, key and choice of instruments are all mechanically useful, the real potential of AI generated music will be unlocked when we can quickly and easily create compositions around specific feelings.
AI’s role in the wider creative music industry should be seen as an invaluable tool rather than something that threatens to replace humans and their creativity. Like the best tools it can dramatically reduce the time and effort needed to achieve a specific goal, without making existing expertise and talent redundant. Make no mistake, no musician lives for the pleasure of creating non-descript stockmusic, and the time saved can be used on things that AI can never do, like telling stories that no-one else can, and creating the truemusical masterpieces of tomorrow.
By Taishi Fukuyama