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AI-music startup Popgun launches consumer music-making app Splash


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Our recent interview with Stephen Phillips, CEO of AI-music startup Popgun, outlined his belief that an app for teenagers to make AI-powered music might be the ultimate ‘end-game’ for this technology. Now his company has launched… a music-making app for teenagers!

Well, any-age people really: the key is that they don’t need prior musical knowledge to use Splash, which is available for iOS and Android.

It’s a free download, and looks similar to popular music-creation app Groovepad, in that users choose genre-based packs of loops, then tap to trigger drums, basslines, synths, vocals and FX. They can then record their songs, add cover artwork and share them with the world.

“The first version of Splash is similar to Groovepad and other launchpad apps. We really liked the simplicity and accessibility of that way of making music. Kids can immediately start making music and with a little practice get good really fast. We could see how our AI tech could make that experience much more compelling,” Phillips told Music Ally.

“While the UX [user experience] is similar, Splash is different in several ways. Splash does not have ads and all pads are free. The sound packs are designed by human producers using Splash Pro, our AI app for professionals. This lets us quickly compose and expand sound packs. In future versions of the app, we will make our AI available to users directly, giving them more variety and control of the music. We are excited to see what kids will make using our AI singers and musicians.”

But with no ads, what will the business model be? “We plan to sell licensed artist sound packs which will let fans dive deeper into the sound of the musicians they love most.”

(If you’re wondering what the legals are around the songs created in Splash, that’s made clear on the app’s website: “You may use the sound recordings you create using the App for any commercial or non-commercial purpose, on a royalty-free basis, however your use of the App and the Content does not transfer to you ownership of any IP Rights in the App or the Content.”)

Phillips also outlined the longer-term vision for Splash, as Popgun sees it. “Making music is so much fun and remains one of our most powerful forms of self-expression. Yet there are still millions of people who try to make music and fail. We think AI will solve this problem,” he said.

“We plan to grow Splash into the next big social music network with millions of people making and sharing music. For the past three years Popgun has been developing our core AI tech and in 2020 we will make it available inside Splash so everyone can experience the joy of making music.”

As a reminder, here’s the even bigger vision that Phillips talked to Music Ally about in our previous interview, conducted for our recent report on AI music.

“What’s the end-game for this? There isn’t this place in the world where teenagers come together to make music for each other. That place does not exist, and that’s nuts! That thing needs to exist, and it will exist. And getting the AI working is the price of admission to build that thing,” he said then.

“Where’s the ‘pop stars on training wheels’ place where they make music for each other, release it and watch each other pretend to be pop stars, but then go on to become legitimate pop stars? Who’s going to create that space where the next Billie Eilish comes from?” he added.

“The current pop industry is very few musicians controlled by three or four companies, played by a billion people. The new thing has to start with kids making music for each other and ignoring all of that world. It’s still too hard, though, and AI has to be the answer for that.”

For more background on the technology Popgun has been working on, read our first interview with Phillips from 2017, and our follow-up in November 2018.

Stuart Dredge

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