An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Last week, a press release went out to tech and music reporters claiming that little-known startup Endel had become the "first-ever algorithm to sign [a] major label deal" with Warner Music. The news was covered widely, with commentators tossing around phrases like "the end is nigh" while hand-wringing over the idea of coders coming for musicians' label contracts. But the press release wasn't exactly right, and questions about the future of music are even bigger than anyone thought. Endel is an app that generates reactive, personalized "soundscapes" to promote things like focus or relaxation. It takes in data like your location, time, and the weather to create these soundscapes, and the result is not quite "musical" in the traditional sense. It's ambient, layering in things like washed-out white noise and long string notes. It's the type of stuff that's exploded on streaming platforms in recent years under newly invented genre names like "sleep." Although Endel signed a deal with Warner, the deal is crucially not for "an algorithm," and Warner is not in control of Endel's product. The label approached Endel with a distribution deal and Endel used its algorithm to create 600 short tracks on 20 albums that were then put on streaming services, returning a 50 / 50 royalty split to Endel. Unlike a typical major label record deal, Endel didn't get any advance money paid upfront, and it retained ownership of the master recordings. Even if Endel had signed over the masters, the company could easily just make more: Dmitry Evgrafov, Endel's composer and head of sound design, says all 600 tracks were made "with a click of a button." There was minimal human involvement outside of chopping up the audio and mastering it for streaming. Endel even hired a third-party company to write the track titles. Five Endel albums have already been released, and 15 more are coming this year — all of which will be generated by code. In the future, Endel will be able to make infinite ambient tracks.

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