By Amira Gharbi
Artificial Intelligence in Search of New Promising Artists
“AI-enabled” label, SNAFU Records, has launched with $2.9mln in capital with headquarters in LA as well as in Stockholm.[i] The firm claims to be “the first full-service record label built on AI-music discovery.”[ii] Since its founding in March 2018, it has signed 16 artists, including Mishcatt – a jazz artist of Costa Rican descent who performed during the Avicii Tribute show.[iii] “Our proprietary algorithms analyze millions of data points over 150,000 songs per week to find the few artists that can make a major cultural impact with their music,”[iv] states the label’s website. The algorithms analyze different aspects concerning the song, among which is the similarity to other top songs on Spotify (top 200). A percentage of 70-75% of similarity is required to satisfy the algorithms.[v] It has to be compliant enough to follow the “rules of a hit,” [vi] says SNAFU’s CEO, Ankit Desai, but different enough to be novel. This is reminiscent of Hit Songs Deconstructed,[vii] a company that offers analytical tools to help understand why some songs are more successful than others. Although Hit Songs Deconstructed strives to reverse engineer what SNAFU’s algorithms are looking for in terms of the song itself (structure, melody, tempo, etc.), the principle is correlative.
Is AI Taking Over the Music Business?
Certainly not! As Carl Falk, creative director of SNAFU Records, says, “it would be a big mistake if we only looked at numbers.”[viii] Artificial intelligence serves as a tool, sorting out through vast oceans of newly released tracks to then let the in-house A&Rs of SNAFU analyze up to 20 of the most promising acts.[ix] The label has on its’ team technologists, A&Rs, producers, and creatives. Snafu’s songwriters have worked with such artists as Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Martin Garrix, Nicki Minaj, The Weekend, Foster The People, and many others. Falk himself has worked for Madonna, One Direction, and Nicki Minaj.[x]
Interestingly enough, major labels have also noticed the relevance of AI in search of new talent. Desai has been working with Universal Music and Capitol Records, building algorithms that could predict the future success of a song.[xi]
On a Mission to Discover the Undiscovered?
It seems like SNAFU Records is on a mission to explore the unexplored and AI serves as a tool maximizing its’ efforts. As Desai states, “we started SNAFU Records because we wanted to build a bridge for the thousands of artists whose music the world is dying to hear, but don’t get a chance.”[xii] A good example of that is a case of a duo called Joan, which had 2,000 followers. Joan was discovered on the second day of their debut release, and currently have over 20mln cross-platform streams[xiii] thanks to SNAFU Records.
What is more, AI-based talent search is not the only priority of SNAFU Records. The label is dedicated to “making artist-friendly, transparent deals that benefit both parties.”[xiv] It is quite clear that the old major label model has expired and will need significant restructuring shortly. Depending on how successful SNAFU’s model and algorithms turn out to be, more labels may follow this new direction. Is SNAFU the future of the music industry or, will the future of the music industry be a snafu?