The latest big technology firm exploring AI music is ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok. It has begun testing a “music creation, composition and audio editing” app called Ripple.

For now it’s an iOS app that’s available in the US as a closed invitation-only beta test, although people will be able to request an invitation code through the Ripple website.

ByteDance says that the free app is designed for musicians and social-media creators alike. In the former case as a compositional aid, and in the latter as a tool to create background music for their videos.

The app includes a feature called ‘Melody to Song’ which enables users to sing or hum a melody into their phone. Ripple will then “expand the melody with an instrumental accompaniment in a variety of different genres”.

The app also includes a ‘virtual recording studio’ for people to edit their audio. For now, Ripple can only create instrumental music.

ByteDance told Music Ally that the AI model used by Ripple has been trained on music licensed or owned by ByteDance, as well as music that was produced in-house.

The company’s spokesperson confirmed that it has NOT been trained on commercial music from labels, nor on tracks released by independent artists through TikTok’s SoundOn distribution arm.

It’s clear that Ripple is a work in progress that will evolve. For example, we wondered whether people will be able to create tracks using the app, and then upload those tracks to TikTok to make money. Seemingly not yet.

“We will look at user feedback during the test phase and may develop new product features going forward,” ByteDance’s spokesperson told us in response to that question.

Who owns the copyright to music created using Ripple? “The music creator owns the content the user has uploaded to Ripple, to the extent the music creator has a copyright interest in that content,” said the spokesperson.

(One potential pitfall of letting people hum or sing to create source audio, of course, is that they may choose to hum or sing copyrighted songs. If people start singing ‘Single Ladies’ or ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ or ‘Shape of You’ to Ripple to see what it makes (which they will), ByteDance will have to deal with the ensuing moderation challenges if the results can be shared publicly, let alone released commercially.)

Ripple’s launch isn’t entirely a surprise. In May MBW spotted a pair of ByteDance job ads for roles working on an app that would “significantly lower the music creation barrier and inspire musical creativity and expression”.

The company had previously tested a desktop music-making application called Mawf, in 2022, which like Ripple was capable of turning “incoming signals” like singing into music.

Further back, ByteDance acquired one of the first AI music startups, British firm Jukedeck, in 2019. The company’s CEO Ed Newton-Rex would become product director of TikTok’s AI Lab.

He left the company in 2021 and has since worked at Snap’s music-creation app Voisey, and is currently VP of audio at one of the most prominent generative-AI companies, Stability AI.

TikTok took an experimental leap into music creation last year with its StemDrop partnership with UMG and Simon Cowell. It broke a track into stems and made it available for TikTokers to remix and use in their own videos.

In other words, ByteDance has been interested in music creation – including AI music – for several years now, and Ripple is just the latest expression of that interest.

Its ‘sing or hum a melody and Ripple will turn it into a song’ is likewise not a brand new development. Startups including Vochlea, HumOn and HumTap have explored this idea, although the latter firm has since pivoted to become a web3 livestreaming app.

Other companies have been exploring alternative, text-to-music interfaces where text prompts are used by AI models to generate music. We wrote about Splash Pro earlier today, as well as recent similar models launched by Google and Mubert.

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