Artificial intelligence is a booming sector for start-ups, but Musiio stands apart from many other companies in the music space.
As well as highlighting the benefits of its technology, CEO and co-founder Hazel Savage says Musiio has the financial clout to build its business in a competitive space. It recently reported a $10 million valuation and has attracted some significant backers.
The Singapore-based firm has built an AI that can “listen” to music to enable music supervisors, labels, publishers, DSPs and more to tag, search, curate and create playlists from a catalogue.
The sheer scale of music now available online has made Musiio’s technology an essential tool for clients including Hipgnosis, Beatstars and Epidemic Sound.
Musiio recently secured investment from backers including Tileyard Group founder Paul Kempe and is on course to double revenue this year.
It has now launched Segment Selection, which finds the best 30, 45 or 60 seconds of any track for uploading to TikTok, Instagram Stories and YouTube Shorts.
Here, CEO and co-founder Hazel Savage reveals her vision for the company...
How powerful is the platform's AI analysis in a crowded music market? How is it helping to drive music discovery?
“I don't often think in terms of how 'powerful' the AI is, that almost suggests an unknown element. One of the interesting things about the product we have at Musiio is an AI can't really learn anything we haven't taught it. It's machine learning, at its core it's a computer (albeit a very fast one) that has been taught patterns (music) and looks to recognise those patterns in new music it is shown. It does have the appearance of being very clever and fast, almost like a magic trick, but once you understand how it works it's really quite orderly and process-based.
“What also make us different in a crowded space is two things: one we aren't pulling open data from other platforms like Spotify or YouTube, all of our data is generated based on the audio file itself, meaning you aren't reliant on anyone 'giving you access' and it works really well on UGC and production music, like that of our clients at Beatstars or Epidemic Sound. Secondly, for those who operate in a very similar space to us, to the best of my knowledge we are the only one with the $10 million valuation and investment. Of course, money isn't everything, you need the right team. But with a tech this cutting edge, it helps to have some cash in the bank to build the products and not have to get the customer to pay for your research. We took that bet on ourselves and the team with VC funding.
“In terms of music discovery, we are technically B2B, so we may provide a client like Beatstars with 10-20 pieces of original metadata for every one of the 20,000 tracks and beats uploaded to their platform on a daily basis, and then Beatstars use that rich metadata to power their algorithms and search to allow great to new content to be discovered and bought. So our role is really B2B2C, my end goal is to benefit the musicians regardless of budget. I felt the best way to do that was working with large music tech companies, labels, publishers and anyone else who needs what we do.”
How is the music industry embracing Musiio? What does it offer in the growing AI music sector?
“There has been a definite shift in the last four years in terms of acceptance. It felt like when we first started people were more sceptical, of AI as a whole but also us as a business, being largely untested. It's an interesting experience for me, because I've always known our products were great and that we could deliver them, but sometimes it just takes time for other people to believe it. It can't be rushed or faked, it's just the passing of time, it proves your own longevity.
“I also always make it clear to people that we are descriptive AI, we generate data on already existing audio, we don't operate in the generative AI space (AI that writes music). I am a pretty outspoken opponent of AI-generated music. I think it's impressive academically, but we aren't always considering the ethical impact of such technology on songwriters. But who knows in 10 years, I'll either be seen as a prophet or a dunce for that statement!”
We've been working with labels to get legacy catalogues TikTok ready
Hipgnosis is a client of Musiio. How do you help companies with growing catalogues keep control and service the needs of clients?
“We are so happy to be working with Merck and the whole team at Hipgnosis. Not only has Merck really changed the game in terms of music as an asset class, but of course he is also at the forefront of music tech. Think of us at Musiio as like 'image reverse search by Google' - you upload a picture and it searches all the pictures it knows and finds you potential matches. We do the exact same for audio. Upload a track and we tell you out of the 60,000 or 1,000,000 or more tracks you have, what is a good match, a good fit and has audible similarities. It's such a unique problem our industry faces.
“I go back to my time at HMV, when 10 new records a week was easy to listen to and categorise. But in today's world with today's volumes it's impossible, so AI is a brilliant assistive tool. With the power to search a catalogue like a ‘human Google’ you turn a weeks-long manual search for several people for a sync track for a Netflix show into a 10-minute task for one person. That kind of speed advantage can really maximise opportunities for artists and the value of a catalogue.”
How significant was the recent investment - and industry expertise - of Tileyard’s Paul Kempe?
“Meeting Paul Kempe this year felt like a fait accompli. I couldn't believe when we were introduced through a mutual friend that we hadn't crossed paths before! There was a definite instant connection in terms of working styles and ideals. I admit as soon as I heard about the Tileyard North project I was keen to get involved any way that I could. As a northerner born and bred - Darlington for those interested - the idea that a mill renovation project would be occuring in the North of England and provide a cultural hub and investment into the area was just the kind of news I've been waiting my whole life to hear without realising I was waiting. What Paul and the Tileyard team have done for the Kings Cross regeneration is now coming to Wakefield - people are already calling it the Nashville of the UK and I am here for it!”
How has revenue and the operation grown in 2021? Are there any new business areas?
“I am pleased that from our first year of revenue to year two we grew 600%, and from year two to three we doubled our revenue, and we are on track to do the same for this year.
“Of course, we are known for our Tagging, Search and Playlisting capabilities, but we now have a product we call Segment Selection. We have trained an AI to find the best 30, 45 or 60 seconds of any track and this product is live in the market helping lots of companies automate the content they send through to TikTok, Instagram Stories and YouTube shorts. I am honestly amazed at how accurate and smart this new product is, flawlessly picking between one and three great segments per track. We've been working with labels to get legacy catalogues TikTok ready, and more. Anyone is welcome to find out more about it and can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
What are the further growth and investment plans?
“My goal is to keep enabling our technology to be used in a way that most benefits the music industry, the industry that has given me my whole career to date. I believe now we as an industry have this AI technology that can be so helpful from organising music to discovering music, I only have high hopes for the future and growth. It's also an age-old saying that as a start-up CEO and founder you are never not raising money. So let's just say some cliches are cliches for a reason, to quote my lead investor Paul Santos of Wavemaker Partners.”