Amper Music: AI Platform for Creating MusicBy Jay Li
Amper Music is an AI based music platform that enables users with any level of experience in music composition to create original music. Through its technology, Amper seeks to power the music for all forms of media content and solve the frustration with traditional music licensing. I sat down with co-founder Drew Silverstein to learn more about Amper’s pivot to focus on enterprise products.
Intuitive Interface to Empower Creativity
Amper currently offers two versions: simple and pro. The simple module requires just two inputs: style and mood. Users can select from a list of styles, including hip hop, cinematic, classic rock, modern folk, and 90’s pop, and from a list of moods that include reflective, happy, chill, uplifting, playful, etc. Once selected, Amper’s AI composer renders a 30-second- to 5-minute-long tune the user can be instantly downloaded. In the pro version, the options expand to include anything from the number of instruments and their tones, through to time signatures as well as the option for users to collaborate with web applications on Amper Music.
“Computer-generated music is not a new idea, but Amper’s novel approach looks at this challenge as not solely a data science one, but as a musical one.”- Drew Silverstein, Amper Music co-founder
To test out the services, I signed up for an account, which can be linked with Facebook. Without a single strand musical DNA in my body, I had generated a “hip hop – chill” tune that sounded pleasant enough in under five minutes. The interface was incredibly intuitive such that, after learning the ropes, I was creating original music in under 30 seconds. That’s a powerful proposition for the average musician as well as content creators such as Taryn Southern, who recently released her I AM AI album with the help of Amper Music along with other AI music platforms. To date, her single Break Free, produced with Amper Music AI, has garnered 1.8 million views on Youtube and reached #48 on Billboard indicator chart. Though a songwriter, Southern admitted that she knew very little about music theory. A program like Amper Music is the solution to empower more creators to express their creativity by lowering the barrier for making music. Importantly, Southern does not view AI as a replacement for musicians. Instead, the programs today are sophisticated enough for collaboration with musicians to create truly original and customized music.
Amper’s website also came with some problems. On several occasions, the website showed unresponsive loading pages that is cleared by refreshing. In its response, the team recognizes the issues and are working closely for a fix, likely for its October 25th update. Whether the website bug reflects a downside to its commitment to musicians before engineers remains to be seen.
While AI generated music had not tapped into mainstream music production industry, its use case as background music is promising. Commercials, corporate events, news broadcasts, TV, movies, video games, YouTube videos, and even retail stores all have this in common – they need background music. The explosion in content budgets and adoption of streaming platforms is great news for the music licensing industry. The global recorded music industry generated $17.3 billion in revenue (up from $14.2 billion in 2014). Of this, Amper’s immediate addressable market is in the performing rights and synchronization revenue, which made up $2.4 and $0.3 billion, respectively. Beyond traditional music licensing, there is a big opportunity in the global gaming industry for background music. The gaming market is projected to generate $138 billion in 2018 and $181 billion by 2021, and it has only just begun to scratch the surface in terms of its relationship with the traditional music industry, let alone AI generated music.
While Amper finds success in this space, competition is heating up. JukeDeck, a London startup, recently raised $3.4 million to develop an AI music composer. JukeDeck offers a subscription model as well as a pay per track model. Melomics Media is a SF startup developing an autonomous AI music composer, its program runs without any human interaction. Tech and media companies such as Google and Sony are also looking into AI generated music.
In 2014, Drew Silverstein faced a decision no entrepreneur wants to face when he closed down his algorithmic options trading firm. However, as a problem solver with a knack for building something, he got to work on his next move. Taking the lessons he learned, Drew applied to business school and committed to uprooting his life from sunny Los Angeles to Columbia Business School. In the months leading up to school, Amper Music was born. As composers, Drew and co-founders, Sam Estes and Michael Hobe, were often approached by directors and producers looking for an alternative to using stock music. The economics of writing music on request, however, did not work. Recognizing this problem, the three co-founders built the first prototype of Amper Music. This prototype was “terrible”, in the words of the founders, but the exercise helped the team to understand what is possible and the potential impact of their idea. The company soon became dual-coast with Drew in New York starting his journey at Columbia and his co-founders in Los Angeles. To date, Amper has raised over $9 million. Its latest seed funding of $4 million was led by Hong Kong based venture capital firm Horizon Ventures and was participated by Two Sigma Ventures, Advancit Capital, Foundry Group, and Kiwi Venture Partners. With the new funding, Amper expects to double its workforce in the next year and has already moved into a new office in downtown Manhattan.
Focus on Enterprise
Amper’s ambition is the enterprise market. After many difficult conversations internally, Amper is revamping its services to focus on enterprise products. The landing page of its website today warns users to download any track they wish to keep before October 25th, at which time the team will discontinue its support for the beta version of its website. For enterprise users, Amper offers even greater value. Learning from its customers, Amper understands that the biggest pain for content creators is the constraints that come with stock music. That’s why the music created with Amper receives global, royalty-free, and perpetual licensing, thereby eliminating the legal and financial hurdles of traditional music licensing. For enterprise, traditional music licensing can cost well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention the time and labor required. Amper will eliminate this operational inefficiency almost entirely for enterprise.
On the surface, Amper Music may seem like a productivity tool for musicians, democratizing music creation for everyday people. However, its shift in business model to focus on enterprise suggests that Amper believes that solving the music licensing problem for enterprise shows most promise for monetization. The winner in AI music composition will be the company that is able to to innovate and differentiate itself from look-alike productivity tools through the quality and scope of the creative network it builds.