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Boomy's AI is making music way faster than humans, but it hasn't written any hits — yet

Boomy is lowering the barrier to entry into music production. But what happens to streaming sites like Spotify and traditional music labels if algorithms are the hitmakers?

A photo of an audio mixer

Boomy is lowering the barrier to entry for people who want to get into the music business.

Photo: James Kovin via Unsplash

Bay Area-based Boomy has no bands, no stars, no hit producers. Despite that, the startup is churning out tens of thousands of new tracks a day. To date, Boomy users have collectively created more than 3.2 million songs. "We are technically the biggest record label in the world," said Boomy CEO Alex Mitchell in a recent conversation with Protocol.

Boomy's secret: Each song is produced with the help of AI, with users simply picking a genre, and algorithms creating a full instrumental track that can then be manually rearranged and fine-tuned in a matter of minutes.

As interesting as Boomy is as a product, its implications for the music industry are even more intriguing. What does it mean if an AI is creating music faster than humans ever could? What impact do Boomy releases have on the catalogs of music-streaming services like Spotify? How will it affect traditional record labels and musicians reliant on music licensing revenues? And who on earth is going to listen to all this AI-generated music?

In some ways, Boomy's story is the typical tale of technology lowering barriers of entry. "There's a lot of people left out of music-making," Mitchell said. Music production tools can be expensive, and turning ideas into tracks can be time-consuming and require a lot of knowledge, even with digital tools. With Boomy, all one needs is a smartphone and an internet connection.

"Anyone in the world can make music," Mitchell said. Some of the people who have embraced the service include yoga instructors looking to create original soundtracks for their classes, and parents finding new ways to get creative with their kids. (Even the intro music for Protocol's Source Code podcast was created with Boomy.)

But Boomy isn't just an AI production tool. The startup also functions as a kind of one-stop shop for people looking to release their tracks, and has established relationships with both streaming services like Spotify and music rights entities like ASCAP. "We are literally another indie record label or distributor," Mitchell said.

An indie label that could quickly become a major player in the world of recorded music, that is. Boomy's website proudly displays the number of tracks composed with the help of its AI in real time. At the time of writing, that number was 3,208,559, amounting to 3.57% of all of the world's recorded music, according to the company's calculations. And the pace of creation is increasing quickly: One million of those songs were created in the last 40 days alone.

During our conversation, Mitchell admitted that these numbers do come with a few asterisks. Boomy's AI may have created 3.2 million tracks, but the number of those actually deemed worthy to be saved by Boomy's users is closer to 800,000. Furthermore, users have to save five tracks before they can release them, and the number of releases is only now approaching 100,000.

Still, that's a lot of music, especially considering that Spotify's total catalog consists of just 70 million tracks. Thus far, Boomy's flood of releases hasn't caused any issues with digital music services, but Mitchell acknowledged that the music industry wasn't totally prepared for AI. "Some of these systems and processes have to change," he said.

One reason that Boomy hasn't made huge waves in the industry yet is that most of its releases have stayed below the surface. "We don't have any hits," Mitchell admitted. "We don't have anything close to hits." Still, some of its tracks do perform well enough on Spotify, and even get picked up by the service's algorithmic recommendations for Discover Weekly playlists.

That's when Boomy users suddenly see a bump in earnings. The company lets people keep 80% of the revenue generated by their tracks. And while a few extra dollars from Spotify may be nice, that money really is starting to make a difference for video creators, as it allows them to unlock an additional revenue stream with their clips. "We've seen a lot of growth from TikTok and YouTube," Mitchell said.

The company now plans to improve the way people can fine-tune Boomy tracks, and also add support for additional genres in the coming months. In addition, the company wants to double down on the social media angle, and perhaps even release dedicated apps for creators.

This may ultimately result in even more questions about the role of humans in the creative process. When making a song is as easy as taking a photo on your phone (and involves at least as much algorithmic processing), then what does that mean for the people clicking the buttons? "Are they artists?" Mitchell asked. "Are they musicians? Are they social media users?"

At its current pace, Boomy is likely going to produce millions of additional tracks before we have to come up with answers.

Protocol | Fintech

Amazon wants a crypto play. Its history in payments is not encouraging.

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Amazon wants to be a crypto player.

Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images

The news that Amazon was hiring a lead for a new digital currency and blockchain initiative sent the price of bitcoin soaring. But there's another way to look at the news that's less bullish on bitcoin and bearish on Amazon: 13 years after Satoshi Nakamoto's whitepaper appeared on the internet, Amazon is just discovering cryptocurrency?

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Over the last year, financial institutions have experienced unprecedented demand from their customers for exposure to cryptocurrency, and we've seen an inflow of institutional dollars driving bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to record prices. Some banks have already launched cryptocurrency programs, but many more are evaluating the market.

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Protocol | Enterprise

How Google Cloud plans to kill its ‘Killed By Google’ reputation

Under the new Google Enterprise APIs policy, the company is making a promise that its services will remain available and stable far into the future.

Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian has promised to make the company more customer-friendly.

Photo: Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images 2019

Google Cloud issued a promise Monday to current and potential customers that it's safe to build a business around its core technologies, another step in its transformation from an engineering playground to a true enterprise tech vendor.

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Protocol | Policy

Big Tech tried to redefine terrorism online. It got messy fast.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism announced a series of narrow steps it's taking that underscore just how fraught the job of classifying terror online really is.

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Photo: Paul Morigi/Flickr

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