Adventures in audio | Entering the era of music as a service

By Inderjit Birdee, Head of Strategy & Co-Founder, AI Music.

This article featured in the Mediatel Future of Audio post-event report, click here to download the full report.

Since the advent of recorded music in the 19th century, music has been experienced as a static, one-directional process whereby the listener hears any given track in the exact form that the composer intended. But a transformation is in motion, one of co-creation, facilitated by Artificial Intelligence (AI), that presents exciting possibilities for brands, musicians, content creators and consumer experience.

The growth in audio content has been recognised by increased advertising spend, with research by DAX and MTM (July 2019, IAB) indicating that 85% of advertisers were going to increase their investment in the coming year. Beyond this, research published by the IAB UK Audio Advisory Group last week demonstrated that changes in consumer audio consumption during Covid-19 are accelerating opportunities to connect with consumers in the one-to-one environment of audio media, such as podcasts, digital radio and playlist environments.

Challenging How Music Is Created & Consumed

The transition of advertising budgets to audio channels has undoubtedly been accelerated during recent weeks due to the unprecedented situation we are all facing. Whilst consumers are engaging with audio in different ways, moments and mindsets, brand marketers are being challenged to rapidly reimagine their strategy, messaging and creative executions. With audio advertising experiencing fewer production restrictions, a much broader range of advertisers are exploring how they can utilise purely sonic forms of engagement to reach and delight their audiences in a truly personalised manner.

The growth of digital content has ushered in a shift from “mass” media to “my” media, where everyone is their own curator – tailoring their listening experience to their preferences and training platform algorithms to respond to their interests and behaviours. The next evolution in this space is AI-enabled contextual music, which introduces a new paradigm where truly adaptive music can shift to fit your real-time context and change shape to push hyper-personalisation to new frontiers.

Increasing Relevance & Improving the Listener Experience

Enriching the listener’s experience is the purpose of adaptive, contextual music, which has the additional benefit of bringing consumers closer to the brand, artist or publisher that the media originates from. An early iteration of this approach, which you may have experienced when running or exercising, is the tempo of a track responding to your pace with the music speeding up to match your cadence – something that can be very motivating when you want to maintain a faster pace!

A more cutting-edge approach to contextual music is when adaptive tools create real-time instances of the original composition to match the listener’s context and preferences, as opposed to compositionally morphing the piece. Here AI enhances the scalability of an original piece of music by generating effective “remixes”. For example, a US-based West Coast hip-hop artist may only appeal to a certain demographic but can appeal to a new audience, maybe people who like Brazilian Funk, as the AI will adapt the work with consent to better suit that demographic – widening the artist’s engagement and fan base in the process. Song adaptation and the possibilities available to shift between genres presents new opportunities for content creators and advertisers looking for music to align with their brand, as well as musicians able to increase their route to entry with fans via hundreds of potential algorithmic variations.

Looking at this opportunity through a media lens, the most innovative brands remain focused on increasing the contextual relevance of their advertising, to help drive higher engagement with the stories they tell. Whilst current audio creative remains linear, relying on a one-size-fits-all model, adaptive AI solutions can dynamically scale the production of audio ads and empower brands to tailor creative to everyone’s listening context, dramatically improving engagement and ROI.

By understanding the listener context and genre of music being enjoyed, whilst leveraging an AI engine to produce dynamically personalised audio soundbeds, an audio ad moves from an incongruous, interruptive experience, to one that is complementary to the user-selected content being consumed.

Exploring this potential at AI Music with Spark Foundry and their client Cox Communications, it was possible to help the agency reduce production time by 95% year-on-year, deliver a 20% reduction in production costs, but - more importantly - create a 238% higher brand engagement than comparable audio ads running non-AI-generated music soundbeds.

New possibilities: “Music as a Service”

The exploitation of audio, whether original composition, sound library selection or commercial sync is incredibly broad, taking in TV, film, games, ads, user-generated content and more. The ability to leverage AI and make bespoke music accessible to the likes of advertisers, production studios and independent content creators creates an entirely new market category – Music as a Service.

Within a wide variety of audio contexts, unique compositions can be instantaneously produced for a given content experience by applying AI technology to remove the latency and typically cumbersome workflows, which compositions often require in response to an agency or brand commission.

Within the context of media and advertising, brands and creative agencies can utilise adaptive AI tools to rapidly generate and produce audio ads, for example, within seconds. AI can automatically optimise a brand’s voiceover recording, select and better fit music to the voiceover and finesse, in real-time, the production and mastering process. Given the rapid nature in which a creative asset can be produced, brands can select multiple variants of their original creative, enabling true personalisation of audio advertising through targeting with respect to genre, playlist mood and time of day for example.

Despite audio being one of the oldest forms of advertising, cutting edge technologies are enabling advertisers to develop new ways to reach and excite listeners in moments that matter, through the power of audio advertising. With brand differentiation being experienced sonically, AI music introduces unlimited possibilities for brands looking to establish their unique sound, enrich their customer experience and find new advocates.

Get in contact with us to learn more about our efforts to involve listeners and creatives in a personalised and dynamic music experience.