Australian startup Popgun emerged in 2017 as part of the first cohort of the Techstars Music accelerator, armed with an AI system capable of creating music. Originally an attempt to “build an AI that’s going to have a top 40 hit”, the company shifted focus to an AI called ‘Alice’ that could play piano with a human, responding to what they did.

By 2018, Popgun’s system could “play the guitar, the bass and the piano, and each one of those AIs can listen to one another and play together”. The company then started to develop products based on that: an AI mastering tool in 2019; then a music-making app called Splash later that year, using beats and loops created by its AI. Then Splash became a game within Roblox, and that’s where things took off.

Fast forward to November 2021, and more than 7.8 million people have made music within Splash. Now the company – rebranded as Splash – has raised a $20m Series A funding round co-led by Amazon’s Alexa Fund and Bitkraft Ventures, while revealing a new structure focused on games, music-making tools, and artist discovery.

Its Splash Games vertical will continue the momentum from Roblox, where Splash averages 10m monthly plays a year and a half after launch. Splash Tools will be where the company continues work on its AI instruments and music creation tools, while Splash Stars will continue its work developing virtual characters, having already spawned an artist named Kai who rose to prominence in Splash on Roblox (helped by the fact that Kai’s human alter-ego created the game itself).

Splash has already been a fascinating and unexpected fork in the evolution of AI music: a game (on an equally fascinating platform, Roblox) where millions of children are making music with AI-generated sounds. Splash has explored artist partnerships – Tones and I in November 2020 for example – but its long-term potential may well be in what its community of young music-makers go on to do next, and how that intersects with the music industry.

“We are growing a team of musicians, technology professionals, gamers, and creatives who have joined our mission to find new and inventive ways to inspire the next generation of musicians,” said CEO Stephen Phillips, adding that “we are on track to one day host the world’s must-attend virtual performances”.

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Music Ally's Head of Insight

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