SendMusic Blog

The latest from the SendMusic team.

Home

SendMusic helping you with the Coronavirus (COVID-19)
General, Product, SendMusic News, Uncategorized

SendMusic helping you with the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Interview with disco don Yam Who? aka Qwestlife!
General, Music Business, Music Production

Interview with disco don Yam Who? aka Qwestlife!

I interviewed Yam Who? in this week’s blog post and asked him some questions that might just capture your imagination a wee bit. So who is  Yam Who?. He’s the internationally known alter ego of disco producer Andy Williams. One of the most consistent DJ’s on the circuit, every weekend you’ll find him rocking the dance floor at clubs & festivals around the globe including Glitterbox, Lovebox, Ministry Of Sound, Horse Meat Disco, Love International etc.. He’s featured on line ups with the world’s finest selectors including Greg Wilson, Joey Negro, Melvo Baptiste, Tiger & Woods, Purple Disco Machine & Danny Krivit. So let’s dive into the questions!

 What do you currently do?
Currently I wear a lot of hats, but in a nutshell I do the following:

  • DJ as Yam Who & Qwestlife
  • Artist / Producer as Yam Who & Qwestlife
  • Owner of 3 labels – ISM, Midnight Riot & Black Riot 
  • Songwriter
  • Journalist – Mixmag disco editor, providing a cutting edge platform for the modern disco, boogie & house scenes

 How did you break into the industry?
I started DJ’ing at university. Then there weren’t many DJ’s back then (it was a long time ago lol). Then suddenly it seemed to become very cool and there were too many. Throughout this period I always had the disco bug. I was also always into technology and instruments and I seemed to naturally drift into music production. I realised early on that the only way into music was through production and I started Yam Who. From this I naturally progressed into setting up ISM Records in 2009. Following on from ISM I sensed a missing niche in the market and started Midnight Riot and the label literally took off. I learnt a lot from starting ISM that really helped with Midnight Riot being the success that it is. Anyways all this led to getting a gig at Mixmag as their Disco editor and from here I ended up getting signed to Glitterbox which was a dream come true. I still remember getting a call from the team there and what a surreal feeling it was. I loved the label and they said they wanted to create some synergy and I now have an album coming out on their label under my production guise ‘Qwestlife’ with Tom Laroye.
I have to point out that this whole process spans 30 years, I started in music back in 1989. I firmly believe that the only way to break into the scene now is to set up yourself correctly, through things like Bandcamp and having a strong brand and releasing great music. Internet technology has levelled the playing field. The way to do it is through perseverance, ingenuity and creativity. 

How long did it take you to be a success?
As I mentioned above it’s taken me 30 years and it’s just really getting going now! There have definitely been key, formative events on the way, like when I first got into Hip Hop in 1983. MOre than just music this was a movement centred around music, dancing (breaking), art (graffiti)  and fashion – all things that I love. Even with Midnight Riot, I came up with the name after the Tottenham Riots in 2011. They had just happened and I was trying to get home at midnight, (I live in Tottenham)!
Everything comes together in a weird way. I feel nowadays everyone wants an instant fix but you have to take your time, hone your craft, practice and be creative as that breeds longevity. If it’s any consolation I’ve made a ton of mistakes on the way. 

What advice do you have for producers trying to break into the industry?
Persevere, be creative, hone your craft and hustle. Also make your music with passion, you have to come with the right intentions and be authentic.

How is it best to send music out to DJ’s, labels and Management companies?
I use SendMusic for this, as it’s so fast and reliable and you guys are brilliant at helping me out whenever I need it!

 What are your favourite go to plugins?
I’m a software junkie I think, but here are the staples:
– Arturia – V Collection
– Xfer – Serum
– Fabfilter – Pro Q, Saturn
– Native Instruments – Kontakt, Massive, Reaktor
Everyone has their own system, find what works for you, but really master whatever it is you use. Most DAW’s come with insane stock plug ins now to be fair. I also use a ton of hardware as well, loads of outboard synths. There’s something special and organic about capturing analogue signals that gives your music real warmth and depth. I think this can be lacking sometimes with solely plugins.

Do you have your own tracks mixed and mastered by someone else?
Yes I now use someone else, even though I can do it and used to do it all myself. But you reach a certain level where it’s better outsourced and I prefer the separation of the stages now.
Mixing and mastering duties fyi are done by a certain Matt Bandy, he’s great!

 What trends do you see in the scene this coming year?
The Disco vibe is just starting to really get going – it’s going to get bigger this year I believe.
Our debut Qwestlife album is out this year on Glitterbox, so excited for that and hoping that trends!
Also i’m seeing a collective of people / producers / songwriters making big songs again with  great vocals and great songwriting. It’s an exciting time in the scene.

Who are your favourite producers
There are a ton out there but right now i’m digging the following:
– The Vision – Kon and Ben Westbeech
– Art of tones
– Michael Gray
– Joey Negro
– Purple Disco Machine

How can our users get you music, for either getting signed to one of your labels or inclusion in your DJ sets?
If you go to my SendMusic Profile Page here, just send it via that! Like I said, it’s my file transfer method of choice 🙂

That’s it for this week. Finally, thanks Yam, it was great talking to you and best of luck for the rest of 2020. We look forward to hearing your art!

Pal

pal@sendmusic.com

 

 

 

 

 

Streaming revolts and artist cuts
Music Business

Streaming revolts and artist cuts

Did you know that 2002 was the peak of the global music industry in terms of revenue generated? Even more interestingly however is that last year the global industry generated somewhere in the region of 85% of the money it did in 2002 at its peak. The Recorded Music Association of America (RIAA) revealed that overall revenues in the US recorded music industry grew 12% to $9.8 billion last year, driven heavily by Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Pandora, TIDAL and other streaming platforms. Things look like they are on the up for artists and music makers, but in reality are they?

Recently in Germany a group of managers and lawyers representing some of Germany’s biggest artists have written a joint letter to the leaders of the four largest music companies in the world – Universal, Sony, Warner and BMG. The letter demands more money from the booming business created by the streaming platforms. Interestingly the letter doesn’t attack the digital platforms, but instead attacks record companies and implies that these record companies are taking too much of the streaming millions.

The artist’s representatives say that there is “an urgent and fundamental need to review and, if necessary, restructure the billing and remuneration model in the area of streaming”. BMG to their credit responded saying “we do not find it justifiable in a world in which record companies no longer have the costs of pressing, handling and delivering physical products for them to hold onto the lion’s share of streaming revenues”. The silence from Sony, Universal and Warner is somewhat deafening.

Just focusing on the streaming platforms for the moment, below is a list that shows which services pay the most from top down. Napster currently sits at the top and pays most per stream at $0.01900. The far right column shows how many streams would be needed to make the US Minimum Monthly Wage of $1,472. 

So the obvious question is where is all this money generated from streaming actually going? It’s hard to shed much light on how much major labels are retaining versus what they actually pay out to artists from their streaming revenue income but we’ve scoured the net and have got some indicative figures below.

Looking at recent investor filings from Universal Music Group’s parent company Vivendi, as well as Sony and Warner, it was found that the companies are totaling $19 million in daily streaming revenue. Yes that is a lot of money! Broken down even further, this trio of labels generate nearly $800,000 per hour just from music streaming services alone. According to the RIAA, streaming now makes up to 75% of these label’s revenues. 

Here’s the sad part though – record labels take as much as 80% of those earnings, as part of traditional record deals. Bigger stars who negotiate a more favourable royalty split still usually have to share around 50% of music revenue. 

This disparity has led to some music legends and pop stars complaining about how little they make from music streaming. If you remember, not so long ago Taylor Swift even went as far as removing all her music from streaming services at protest of the small percentage that artists receive. To her credit she forced Apple Music to renege on the refusal to pay artists for plays during free trial periods. She also forced UMG to agree to share it’s $1 billion stake in Spotify with artists when the label re-signed her.

It’s obvious the major labels and the tech companies are prospering in this new music streaming ecosystem. But it’s now time artists receive their fair share of the pie also, as at the end of the day, they are the ones who create the art we all love. Spotify has an admirable mission statement – ‘to unlock the potential of human creativity by giving 1 million artists the opportunity to make a living off their art’. It sounds great, but I believe they, as well as the other major streaming services, need to work with the major labels to make sure that they provide artists with a fair percentage of profits so they can actually make a living from their art. Otherwise we just run the risk of watering down the actual art, artists taking less risks and music becoming less inspiring as the music makers gravitate towards sounds that are more popular and generate more streaming revenues. I think I would seriously consider being an Independent artist in this day and age!

Pal

pal@send.mu

 

15 mixing tips for making great sounding songs
Music Production, Production Tips

15 mixing tips for making great sounding songs

Mixing is something of a dark art with many of the best mixing engineers and producers keeping their secrets under lock and key. It’s not surprising really as who would willingly give away their acquired knowledge, built through years of trial and error. In recent times the secrets of mixing have been getting revealed to us mortals much more through relatively new channels like YouTube, Online courses (with some legendary mix engineers I might add) and the internet in general (blogs etc.). I remember when I first started producing, yes a long time ago now, resources were few and far between and they usually cost quite a bit to get your hands on, hence why back in the day I and probably most other young producers botched our way through the whole mixing process.

In a nutshell mixing is the process of making the track you have written sound good. This can be done through the use of tools such as volume control, panning and things like reverb, delay and any number of effects that are now available. Mixing in my opinion is an art and if you look at a lot of the hit records out there, they are often mixed by names that pop up over and over again. Many of these mix engineers are stars in their own right now. I’m talking about people like Dave Pensado, Greg Wells, Manny Marroquin and they even have their own plugins in some cases. I myself love the Manny Marroquin range available by Waves, check them out! 

I’ll delve more into actual mixing engineers and their tricks in a future blog, but today I wanted to highlight a general checklist of steps you should consider when mixing any music you make. It’s taken from the Mixing Engineer’s Handbook, which is a super resource by Bobby Owsinski, I would suggest getting your hands on a copy.

 

  1. Does your mix have dynamic contrast? Does it build as the song goes along? Are different instruments, sounds, or lines added or muted in different sections? 
  1. Does your mix have a focal point? Is the mix centered around the instrument or vocal that’s the most important? 
  1. Does your mix sound noisy? Have you eliminated any count-offs, guitar amp noises, bad edits, and breaths that stand out? Each one may not seem like much, but their effect is cumulative. 
  1. Does your mix lack clarity or punch? Can you distinguish every instrument? Does the rhythm section sound great by itself? Is the balance between bass, kick, and snare correct? 
  1. Does your mix sound distant? Try decreasing the level of the reverb and effects, starting with the wettest and then working your way to the least wet. 
  1. Can your hear every lyric? Every word must be heard. Tweak the automation if you’re using it; automate the track if you’re not. 
  1. Can you hear every note being played? If solos or signature lines are being masked, automate the track to hear every note, or tweak the automation until you can. 
  1. Are the sounds dull or uninteresting? Are generic synth patches or predictable guitar or keyboard sounds being used? Try modifying them with an effect. 
  1. Does the song groove? Does it feel as good as your favourite song? Is the instrument or instruments that supply the groove loud enough? 
  1. What’s the direction of the song? Should it be close and intimate or big and loud? If your current direction isn’t working, try the opposite. 
  1. Are you compressing too much? Does the mix feel squashed? Is it fatiguing to listen to? Is all the life gone? Decrease the mix buss compression first. Decrease the main instrument or vocal compression next. Decrease the rhythm-section compression next. Decrease the compression on everything else lastly. 
  1. Are you EQing too much? Is it too bright or too big? Decrease the upper mid range EQ on the vocals, guitars, loops, and snare. Decrease the low-frequency EQ on the bass and kick. 
  1. Are your fades too tight? Does the beginning or ending of the song sound clipped? Adjust the fades until the attack transients of the notes are distinct. 
  1. Did you do alternate mixes? Did you do at least an instrumental-only mix? 
  1. Did you document the keeper mixes? Are all files properly named? Are you sure which file is the master? Have you made a backup?

Getting good at mixing takes time and practice and like most things, the more you do it the better you get. All the steps you take and processing you do should be done with the big picture in mind and that is to have a great sounding song at the end of the mixing stage. It’s easy to focus on certain elements of a song like the kick and  bass or vocal and lose focus on the song as a whole. Try and listen to your song as a whole entity.

I’ve also taken great songs I’ve written and ruined them with awful mixes, sucking the life and soul from them through over processing and getting tired of listening to them.  To combat this my advice would be to take regular breaks, A/B reference your song against songs you love and lastly don’t spend too long mixing as you get tired of songs this way. For this last point I would recommend really focusing on mixing when you do it, best done by turning off your internet and not having distractions when you actually sit down to mix. Basically – FOCUS! 

Personally for me there are 3 stages to making music. 1. Writing the song. 2. Mixing the song. 3. Mastering the song. All stages are important in their own right and all take time to master, so have fun in the process. On that note, happy mixing and  music making! 🙂

 

Industry insider interview with….Kemal
General, Music Business, Music Production

Industry insider interview with….Kemal

10 Key questions with….Kemal

Some questions to you guys:

  • Do you make music?
  • Do you want to get your music on the radio?
  • Do you want to know if record labels, blogs etc. actually listen to the music that you send to them?

Well in today’s blog and the first of this year’s interview series, I interviewed SendMusic co-founder and music industry aficionado Kemal.

What do you currently do?

  • I do a few things actually including but not limited to the following:
  • Produce the Diplo & Friends show on BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra
  • A&R for the Grammy nominated production trio The Invisible Men
  • Building SendMusic as the best platform to share unreleased music

How did you break into the industry?

  • I followed my passion for music. At University I started DJing. When I finished Uni my friend and I started working in Community (some might call it pirate!) radio. I also started writing music reviews for a magazine, putting on club nights and doing as many music related things as I could. It was just a case of connecting with people who had the same type of dreams.
  • It all culminated in me enrolling to do a sound engineering course. The universe then worked in my favour and I saw that 1Xtra were launching and advertising for jobs. It took me a year from the first interview to get a continuous role there – but I’d managed to gain some of the skills and experience needed with the things I was doing in my spare time and was able to work across both 1Xtra and Radio 1 late night shows before bringing Diplo to the networks.

What advice do you have for producers trying to break into the industry?

  • Your first 100 productions will be poor, get through these as quickly as possible. Try to make 3 beats a day instead of one a week – it’s a journey and a process. The quicker you get the 10,000 hours in, the quicker your path to success will be. Like anything that is skilled you need to really batten down the hatches and practice your craft, a lot, over and over again. I think anyone can make good music if they are focused.

How would a producer with a great track get it onto the following:

 A Diplo or other big DJ mix?

  • They would have to get a track to either Diplo or one of the guests we feature on the show. The best way to do this is to build your own brand. By brand I mean your artist name, releasing high quality music regularly and building a fanbase. This way other dj’s will hopefully start to like your productions and support you. Every Diplo show features plenty of music from hot new DJs / artists / producers. Try to get your music to these people instead of Diplo initially if you’re not getting the support you’re expecting. Research plays a big part of success here, find out who to send music to that has a connection to Diplo, or whoever you’re trying to reach. If your music is good, it’ll travel.

A Radio 1 playlist?

  • Again your focus should be to build a brand and create a fanbase. A producer or musician’s job is to make music that is undeniable and then try to build a big enough fanbase so that people talk about and support it. Trust me, Radio 1 will take notice, but it’s a long and lengthy process so keep at it. Put out as many high quality tracks as regularly as you can, to build a fanbase and get regular support. Also remember that Radio 1 may not be the best home for the music you’re making so try to find the right channel for whatever style of music that you produce. Use some thought here and consider what places are best for your music to submit to.

A Spotify playlist?

  • This I think has more to do with building a presence on the platform as you can now pitch for inclusion to playlists. Get as much support as possible and start with the smaller playlists. The cumulative effect of this is that it kicks in the Spotify engagement algorithm which works to put you in better contention for the larger playlists. Remember that to get onto the big Spotify playlists you need to probably be established with a solid monthly streaming number. Start with small playlists, even with 100 or 1000 subscribers, before long you will hopefully progress to 10,000 subscriber playlists and beyond.

How is it best to send music out to DJ’s, labels and Management companies?

  • First stop would be to look though the SendMusic directory (send.mu/directory) as we’ve got some major players in there – so sign up! Do your research, look at their relevant social spaces, they usually have demo drop details. Most of the information you need is on the internet, so just start digging.
  • Format wise I prefer when people send 1 track (your best!) and never more than 3. More than that and the reality is most people working in the music industry just won’t have the time to go through them all. I get 15 emails a day asking me to listen to music so if you’re sending 12 tracks it’s just not going to happen. If they want to hear more, they’ll get in touch and ask. Make sure that it’s a high res mp3 with contact details on how to get in touch, which is best done in using the file name effectively.

Does anyone really ever listen to the music at the record labels, blogs, Spotify playlists in your opinion?

  • Yes, most people get into the music industry because they are passionate about music. The underlying issue is that these people are inundated with tracks. Getting through as many tracks quickly and securely and sending feedback is why we created SendMusic!

 Do you have to have a massive social media presence to get signed now?

  • No, but you need something unique, whether that’s your personality shining through online or your amazing music making skills making you stand out. There are lots of smaller labels that support artists without huge followings. If however you’re definitely looking to be a top 10 pop star then yes, you most probably do need to work on your social media presence and have an audience already.

Do you need a Radio Plugger?

  • Radio pluggers help after you reach a certain level – when you’ve had time in a scene and built some connections. As a general rule of thumb they are more for pushing music to daytime shows and rotation. Good radio pluggers should have connections with presenters and radio production staff that can help get your music heard but you don’t necessarily need one – especially if you’re making underground specialist music.

What is the best way to keep on top of trends in music?

  • For music trends look out for what’s hot using different indicators, such as charts, sales / streaming, what’s being played on radio shows, in the clubs and in DJ mixes.
  • From a business angle read things like Music Week or Music Business Worldwide to find out about who is doing what at labels, publishers and more.

Is it better to be independent in this day and age or with a management company that can align you with singers and an infrastructure

  • This depends on the artist. I’m an advocate of doing as much as you can by yourself until managers approach you. Lots of upcoming artists think the answer is to get a manager, but the vision still needs to come from the artist – where he or she is going artistically. A manager is just an enabler. I guess the questions underlying this is – as an artist do you want full creative control or do you need help navigating the industry? It can be complex, there are lots of tricky roads to manoeuvre, e.g. record deals, publishing contracts, licensing, touring etc. You can do it all yourself (it’s easier than ever with more and more tools evolving every year) but the independent path doesn’t let you focus 100% on the craft of making music.

What plans do you have for SendMusic in 2020?

  • 2020 is already gearing up to be our best and most exciting year yet!
  • Our Mobile App will launch at the end of March and I think you are going to love it – there are also big plans in the summer centred around some key music tech events.
  • We’ll be heading back to ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event) in October, where we were shortlisted as a ‘Company 2 Watch’ last year.

 

2019 & Beyond
AI, General, Music Business

2019 & Beyond

Well it’s been a few weeks now since we saw in 2020, the start of a new decade and i’m guessing for many of you a reinvigorated drive to accomplish goals and realise dreams. It’s definitely felt that way for myself as a co-founder of SendMusic and a part time music producer – i.e. part time as in when I get a spare moment to create, which is quite tricky with 2 children and 2 cats. In fairness to the cats they are actually not time consuming at all really, the children on the other hand…  

For today’s blog post I thought I’d cover a few things at a high level. A quick recap of 2019, primarily focused on how SendMusic got better and developments we have coming this year and a look at the impact AI has had on the music industry. Then I will quickly highlight how the blog will be formatted moving into 2020. 

2019 

A lot happened in 2019, some good, a little bad, not much ugly. It was a great year for SendMusic, we saw rapid growth in the number of active users that we have. We also built the platform out more in light of some pretty cool ideas we’d been harbouring and also off the back of great feedback we’d received from you guys. Notable events included the launch of our 2 paid tiers which offer additional features allowing you do things like customise your SendMusic profile page to make it look your own, all part of the Personal Plan. Or even add really enhanced security parameters around the files you send, as part of the Security plan, Below is a side by side comparison.

Personal Plan $5 Security Plan $10
  • Send files up to 5GB in size
  • Store your files for up to 60 Days
  • Send files to up to 10 contacts
  • Customise your public SendMusic profile
  • Remove SendMusic branding
  • Hide the “Send Music to me” button
  • Change your background design and colors
  • Send files up to 10GB in size
  • Store your files for up to 90 Days
  • Send files to up to 20 contacts
  • Customise your public SendMusic profile
  • Remove SendMusic branding
  • Hide the “Send Music to me” button
  • Change your background design and colors
  • Watermark your audio files with an audio sting
  • Limit downloads and plays of each file
  • Send private messages to other SendMusic users
  • Listen to music sent to your profile for 30 days

Even more excitingly we have our mobile app coming, it’s in development as I write this and it looks incredible! More importantly than it’s look is the functionality it will bring when it comes to sending, receiving, storing and communicating around the music files you use. This is an area  we feel hasn’t been fully nailed yet by any one developer and we are excited to share what we think might just delight you.

If I were to sum up 2019 in the music industry as a whole two letters spring to mind – AI. Artificial Intelligence is already in use in many ways. It automates services, discovers patterns and insights into huge data sets and creates efficiencies. 

So what happened involving AI more so than ever? Well the AI generated playlist really came to the fore. 20,000 new tracks uploaded to Spotify every day and AI is critical for helping sort through the options and delivering recommendations to listeners based on what they’ve listened to in the past. The algorithm has in fact changed the way we consume and listen to music, crazy stuff.

AI also created more songs than ever. Google’s Magenta project produced songs written and performed by AI and Sony developed Flow Machines, an AI system that’s already released “Daddy’s Car,” a song created by AI. Then we had Landr mastering your tracks using AI and providing a cheaper than human service to do so. In most cases doing a very good job also!

Artificial intelligence is also helping the industry with A&R (artist and repertoire) discovery. It’s always been challenging to comb through music and find promising artists that haven’t signed to a label, but it’s even more overwhelming with the deluge of streaming music today. Warner Music Group acquired a tech start-up last year that uses an algorithm to review social, streaming and touring data to find promising talent. Apple also acquired a start-up that specializes in music analytics to support the A&R process.

In a nutshell, AI is well established behind the scenes influencing the music we listen to in many ways.

Blog

You’ll all be pleased to hear that you will be getting weekly installments of the blog, following the format below:

W1: Tips and Tricks

W2: Industry Trends

W3: Interview

W4: “Answer the Public”

W5: Music Technology, hardware

This week (as we’re in Week 4) I will ‘answer the public’ – basically responding to a question that is in response to a question that’s often asked online.

Have a great day!

Pal

pal@send.mu

AI seeps further into the music arena
Music Production

AI seeps further into the music arena

Artificial Intelligence, AI for short, seems to be seeping more and more into the world as we know it. From healthcare to education to even real estate, the touch of AI can be felt in ever increasing regularity. It’s also now being seen more and more in the music industry and in particular plugins. A number of major industry players as well as young upstarts are harnessing its power, to enable music professionals to make and produce better sounding music. In today’s blog episode I am going to highlight 5 of the companies / plug-ins best harnessing the power of AI. So let’s dive right in.

Humtap

Humtap listens to your voice and turns your hums into songs. I’m sure lots of us have had the idea to create something like this, I know I did, but Humtap actually turned intention into reality. The app records your hummed melody and chosen rhythm and applies AI algorithms to compose, arrange, perform and produce an instrumental track — all you need to do is hum your tune and select a drum track on your phone’s screen. You can even choose a musical genre, such as Depeche Mode or Metallica.

Humtap’s CEO predicts a future where anyone, even without musical training, studio equipment or financial resources will be able to make and produce music. AI will do the production and mixing for you, all you will need is a smartphone and the app.  

LANDR

AI has also infiltrated the Mastering arena heavily. One of the companies riding this wave is LANDR. Their AI powered mastering engine listens to your unmastered song, identifies the genre and applies the relevant mastering equalisation, multiband compression and other processing. All without human intervention. The processing is adaptive, responding to the needs of the song by continuously tweaking the EQ, compression and other processing tools throughout the track. Each time LANDR masters a track and listen to new music, the better it becomes, thanks to self-learning algorithms.

LANDR are currently mastering over 330,000 songs per month, more than all the studios in America combined. That is very impressive to say the least. It’s also gotten to a level where differentiating between a song mastered using LANDR or an actual mastering engineer is difficult. Personally for me, I still like going to a mastering session with an actual engineer and having a direct input into a session. But who’s to say this will not be possible with future versions of the service in some way and to be honest, if I were a betting man, I’d say this method of remote AI mastering is just going to grow in popularity to a point where it’s seen as the ‘normal’ way to do things.

Izotope

Izotope are an American company that develops award winning audio software and plugins for mixing, mastering, restoration and more. They were one of the first companies out of the blocks to really leverage the power of AI in the plug ins. Since the 2016 release of Track Assistant in Neutron, they have been developing ‘assistive audio technology’ as they call it to help producers with their audio productions. Their stated goal is to eliminate the time-consuming audio production tasks users experience, so they can focus on being creative.

Their assistive audio technology analyses audio and provides custom presets to tailor the sound, helping you to get it to where you want. 

Their assistive audio technology consists of 3 pieces:

  • High level user preference

Before running any assistive tech you are asked to specify broadly the type of sound you are going for. This helps prime the assistant to get a sense of what you are going for and make the appropriate changes you’re looking to make

  • Machine Learning

A machine learning algorithm characterises your audio in some task specific way, e.g. the instrument classifier in Neutron (Izotope’s mixing plugin). This information then tees up the software to make the required changes to get your audio to where you need it to be. 

  • Intelligent DSP

Further analysis of specific audio properties is then carried out, taking into account your user preferences to set parameters of different DSP modules like a Compression module, a Tonal Balance module etc . For example, the dynamic range of your audio is analysed and then parameter values are selected for a compressor module to affect your audio in a way that enhances it (hopefully). I say hopefully as it doesn’t always work as you’d expect in practice but more often than not the results are very good. This process is referred to as ‘Intelligent DSP’ – where DSP stands for digital signal processing, i.e. your audio signal gets affected after AI analysis and then treated with resultant AI powered recommendations. 

Actually one of the competitors to LANDR is Ozone 9, Izotope’s Mastering plugin It makes use of an AI system called ‘Master Assistant’. Essentially what this does is analyse your audio and actions changes for you. You can accept or cancel these changes and also tweak them further manually. It’s very good, with lots of modes to give your music either a vintage or modern feel.

Oeksound – Soothe

This is one of my favourite plugins to use AI – Soothe by Oeksound. Originally billed as a vocal processor, it’s exceptional quality makes it superb as a processor for any audio type. It acts as a dynamic processor for mid and high frequencies.

Basically soothe is a dynamic equaliser with self adjusting frequency bands. Soothe analyses the signal in real time and adjusts the frequency based reduction based on the input signal. This saves time manually automating problematic mid and high frequencies. The reduction kicks in where needed and when needed, without affecting nearby frequency areas. 

For any mix engineers or producers out there soothe really excels in the following areas:

  • Sibilance issues on a vocal
  • Fingerboard noises on a guitar
  • Whistling type sound on cymbals etc.
  • Overly bright piano and guitar tracks

This plugin does an amazing job at taming these sorts of cases and is brilliant. I’d really suggest giving it a try. It’s already a favourite plugin for mixing legends such as Greg Wells who’s mixed Timbaland, Katy Perry and Adele, amongst many others.

Soundtheory Gullfoss

Another amazing plugin is Gullfoss by Soundtheory. It’s an intelligent equaliser that listens in real time to a signal and decides how to prepare the audio so that your brain can get the most information out of it. Gullfoss allows for quick and precise fixes that would require significant time and automation to fix. It really is a time saver and game changer for engineers like me, who can spend hours tweaking eq automation lanes to get them audio sounding right.

Gullfoss leverages a new patent pending equaliser technology that processes audio superbly. This equaliser can change its frequency response 300 times per second, without any audible artifacts or degrading signal quality! Currently it’s the first and only product of its kind and is consequently really making waves in the industry.

Conclusion

As you can see, AI is really starting to make serious headway into the music industry. Some of the services and plugins out there save so much time and effort that they are already invaluable tools in the arsenal of many a music maker. As AI gets more and more powerful will it be able to make songs? Well with companies like Juke Deck, recently acquired by Tik Tok, it already can. How well? I’ll leave that for you to explore and find out. 

Personally I for one could never automate audio tracks to change 300 times per second like Gullfoss can. But at the same time I’m not sure I want to one day maybe getting fed music hits made with no human input, which could in theory could happen if the AI systems making the music become intelligent enough. Anyways, I guess at that point I’ll be getting chased down an alley by a Terminator asking why a human is its master. Whatever does happen it’s a very exciting time in the music industry with exceptional tools and services on offer that are continuing to democratise music making by allowing anyone to create it to a good level, which really is a good thing.