Musical AIs are being talked about more than ever before in 2023… but that talk is being accompanied by launches of new models, tools and services.
We’ve written about new models from Google (MusicLM) and Meta (MusicGen, which sits within a wider AudioCraft framework) as well as Stability AI (Stable Audio) and startups including Cassette, Boombox and Lemonaide.
What links all of these tools is that they’re available for musicians to experiment with. Now there’s one more for the list, Splash Pro, although rather than being a brand new launch, there’s plenty of history behind it.
To briefly recap: in 2017 Australian startup Popgun emerged with a piano-playing AI named ‘Alice’ that was good enough to get it into the Techstars Music accelerator. It was subsequently released as an Ableton Live plug-in called Splash Pro.
As Popgun’s technology developed, its plans evolved: a consumer music-making app called Splash came out in 2019, and was then adapted to form the core of a Roblox game (also called Splash) in 2020, which saw that platform’s young players DJing with AI-generated beats and loops.
That took off, Popgun rebranded as Splash, and raised a $20m funding round in 2021 co-led by Amazon’s Alexa Fund. Since then we’ve kept an eye on its progress, including AI rapping; a lyrics-spitting ‘BeatBot’ experiment, and in June a text-to-music creation tool.
That’s what’s launching today, reusing the Splash Pro name. Trained on the company’s own catalogue of music and vocal samples, its free tier can create 15-second tracks in a range of genres, tilted towards “Gen Z and Alpha gamers and music lovers”.
Splash said it’s particularly good at making hyperpop, EDM, glitch, phonk, trap, lo-fi and hip-hop tracks, although the company is working on expanding that palette further. The service has 15 AI vocalists available to use too, although only one – the rapper – is available for free.
Like Stable Audio, the interface is a box for text prompts that can refer to the desired music as well as its potential use cases. ’60s motown song, organ and percussion’; ‘hybrid trap, dubstep, happy, energetic, youtube vlog’; and ‘oldschool nintendo soundtrack’ being three of the examples shown as inspiration.
Splash Pro is available in two paid tiers costing $10 and $49 a month which boost the maximum length of output tracks; include commercial licences; provide access to more of the AI vocalists, and increase the quality of the downloads – to uncompressed WAVs including stems in the $49 tier.
So, this is a commercial model wrapped around the musical AI, which sits Splash Pro alongside Stable Audio and Cassette, rather than the (for now) open-sourced research models put out by Google and Meta.
Splash Pro’s focus on younger musicmakers is a thread that has run through the startup’s history, as shown in Music Ally’s past interviews with its CEO, former Twitter and We Are Hunted exec Stephen Phillips.
“It doesn’t take creativity away from us: it just augments it. It will let people who can’t tell stories, tell stories. That joy of making something other people like is going to be available to many more people,” he told us in 2018.
“What’s the end-game for this? There isn’t this place in the world where teenagers come together to make music for each other. That place does not exist, and that’s nuts! That thing needs to exist, and it will exist,” he said in 2019.
A recent study by UK charity Youth Music may support Splash’s focus. It found that 63% of young musicians – defined as 16-24 year-olds in that case – said they were likely to use AI to assist them in creativity, either now or in the future.
Those young musicians will be among Splash’s target audience, alongside influencers who want to make AI-assisted tracks for their socials, and – going back to Phillips’ past comments – teens who just want to make music to share with their friends.
The demand is certainly there for Splash Pro, although the challenge now will be persuading enough of them to pay for it to drive a sustainable business. Or, of course, to show enough momentum to persuade a bigger fish in the music/AI/gaming worlds to buy Splash itself.
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