MUBUTV Insider Podcast Episode Transcript
Eric Knight: Jessica thank you so much forelling Ritch when we were figuring out who we're going to get for this, this directly apply to me as an artist because a couple of my older records did not have TV tracks or mixes with instrumental so and I saw that this was available I freaked out I was like “Oh my God” I’ve got to immediately try this so, really exciting and it's I think, really exciting for a lot of artists that may not have that done to their music before so that's really great.
Ritch Esra: Thank you so much for joining us Jessica we really appreciate it. Who do you find are the most in need of what Audio Shake offers is it labels Publishers Independent Artists or who?
Jessica Powell: Yeah all of the above. So we launched an enterprise platform last summer that for labels and Publishers primarily for them to be able to create stems for their song and when we first built the technology it was sync departments that we originally spoke to because we learned early on that, again it depends on the department it depends on their catalog but anywhere from 30% to 50% of the instrumental request that would come through, or rather song request, they wouldn't be able to fulfill the instrumental that the music supervisor music editor was asking for, and most of those opportunities would just walk out the door. So, our first customers were really sync departments from everywhere from the major label groups to companies like Hypnosis to Primary Wave and Concord, Reservoir, Pure Music and then word spread from there and we started to get A&R departments that started looking at it for remixes. We’ve done a lot of stems for spatial mixes and originally when we started I thought we were largely going to be doing deep catalog. I assumed that okay certainly everything that’s mono, things that were analog, maybe the tapes are lost or they're damaged. Then I learned, oh no there was a whole transition to digital where a lot of that stuff was lost and then I thought “OK, all right everything post 2005 I don’t know was set. And then next thing you know we have all these requests coming to us for contemporary songs because there's still the problem today either stems not being delivered or like session files get lost or hard drives crash and so what we, just a few weeks ago launched a platform for independent artists and so that's called the Audio Shake Indie. And we now have Indie artists that we’re able to serve as well, so it’s a little hard to say who uses it the most because I think and I think it makes intuitive sense right across the industry you would have this problem
Ritch Esra: Absolutely! As I’m listening to you, I'm realizing that the growing Market of Independent Artists that you guys are now serving with that new platform really seems to be - you know - that's very exciting because that's something more and more artists are controlling their own recording mixing and mastering as Eric mentioned.
Jessic Powell: And in sync, for an artist today who is recording a song, they probably will, from the producer, the engineer bounce the stems, get the instrumental quite a bit of the time.
But I think you know and I think there's much more awareness now today about the different uses of those stems and the opportunities but say just a couple years ago, sync licensing was nowhere near as big as it is today. And so there wasn't that same knowledge or urgency perhaps in getting your stems after the song recording. So we have a lot I would say the number one used case for Indie artists is definitely sync because the comparison there I think would be, where as on the label side, there's a lot of uses like for example special mixing that right now I hope it's not the case forever but right now that's quite budget intensive to create a special mix and so we don't, I wouldn't say we have a ton of Indie artists coming to us asking for stems for spacial. It's primarily sync licensing.
Eric Knight: Interesting, How did Audio Shake come up with this technology? Was it by accident or design and how does it work? You know I know you mentioned a little bit earlier how it’s separating but I'm wondering how the technology came about?
Jessica Powell: So I was living in Japan with my co-founder we did a ton of karaoke and you know karaoke in Japan is fantastic but just like everywhere else in the world you’re limited to the same number of songs it was like a lot of Brown Eyed Girl a lot of Wonderwall. Which are great songs to karaoke too but at some point you're like please we really wanted to do old hip-hop and old punk and and so we always had it in our heads like what if you could just karaoke do all the world songs and not only that, the originals right? Like I didn't want to hear I like big Gang of Four re-record. I wanted like the original damaged goods and so you know that was always in our head and then when we left our respective tech jobs we started playing around with what could we do in the areas that we knew. Like what could we do? And everyone on the team is a musician and so we really want to do something that was tied to music and creativity and how can we help artists make more money for their music? So, we played around with a bunch of different ideas and kept kind of coming back to this idea around like what if she could actually break a song up. And it started with karaoke but then we're like, what if you could sample all the world songs, what if you could do this, but if you can do that? As we were having those thoughts and started kind of researching the problem and started trying to develop models to pull songs apart the same time we saw of our friends or acquaintances in Silicon Valley building all these really new experiences in gaming and in VR and other spaces and it started to dawn on that yes like it'd be amazing to have the original karaoke version - to be amazing to sample all the world songs but also like in a world VR is going to become much more dominant or rather will already be much more accessible I should say the need for immersive Music Experience so spacialized immersive audio that's going to be built on stems. And then social media, the ability to throw yourself in the music much more than you can do today where you can be interacting directly with the song or throwing yourself into the song or maybe you're increasing the energy of the base but you don't know how to use a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). You're just doing it because all the creator tools will make it so easy just the same way we know and manipulate video, audio and just a final one like on the gaming side, you know gaming is going to be so cool from an audio perspective because today most of the music and audio experiences we have in gaming, my character comes into the scene and that music is hard-coded in so, I have the same piece of music every single time and in the future, it's going to be that music is going to change every single time and unless I as the user somehow set you know I always want this song, that song is going to change every single time I enter the room. Not only that but the whole environment is going to be audio Dynamic like I might touch the wall and I might hear a part of that song or I might hear something totally different and it'll be unpredictable in a really wonderful, rich way. All of that is going to be based on being able to atomize the content right to really pull things down into these small, like, the building blocks of some stems. So as these things are kind of happening in parallel as we were developing and we got more and more excited about the idea.
Ritch Esra: How does audio Shake differ from its competitors in the space, how do you differentiate yourselves?
Jessica Powell: I got a couple ways first we have, uhgh, I hate this right because it sounds so salesy and I need to get over it but we have the best tech. And, so, there's actually a contest it only ran last summer to find the best, they call, demixing technology and, or sound separation, and we won that contest. And we've beat big tech companies, we beat research institutions and so we, I think quality is probably the biggest driver by far. I think we also have a different perspective and how to go about it. It might be the wrong perspective by the way but it's definitely a different approach which is that you know, I think what we've built is pretty cool, and I think it’s super rewarding when you have like an artist who all of the sudden is able to open up their song. You know we’ve worked with like a family estate where they're all of a sudden hearing an artist's voice. Like a mono track recording that their hearing is like their father or they're you know, a relative - the way their voice was recorded in studio in a way no one's ever heard like it's a super powerful and really really rewarding thing. At the same time, It would be I think really disingenuous to pretend that when you have technology that can pull something apart that all the sudden that that can't be used for unfair ways to the artist to end and so for example the most practical way for us to have built a business definitely the most profitable would have been just like build a piece of software make it a plug-in let everyone use it and and just like everyone have a bit and so all this and everyone can sample the OJs an old Motown and in some ways the music lover in me thinks thats amazing and I think its inevitable and that’s what’s going to happen but, the other part of me is just like you know, “Jessica that there is not all of the infrastructure in place so that artists are paid for all of that”. And so it just seems like a pretty crappy thing to do to an artist to just have a fully open technology that allowed some of those kinds of uses and so our approach is pretty different I'd say most of the other people in the space or everyone in the space is, it's open Tech that anyone can use and it like pains me every single time someone who I know make a great remix, comes to us and wants to use it and everything but ours is more closed right now just because we would like to be a part of building the infrastructure or make we don't need to be that builds the infrastructure but we'd like to see that they're more mechanisms in place to make sure that artists have more control over their work.
Ritch Esra: What I find interesting about it is that, you had this technology but at the same time I would think it could be used without an artist's permission. I mean you remember the Grey Album…
Jessica Powell: mmmhmmm
Ritch Esra: Okay…
Jessica: Which is great, I love remixes
Ritch Esra: Which is the White album, and Jay-Z’s Black album mixed together. What’s his name… Danger Mouse
Jessica Powell: Danger Mouse
Ritch Esra: Did this, and EMI put a stop to it and yadda yadda yadda, I'm thinking technology like this really allows this now you know to this kind of thing to occur and the creativity that you could get out of this I think purely on a creative level would be really fascinating.
Jessica Powell: Which is why I’m saying it would be so painful and why it might be stupid what we’re doing. Like I can argue the other side of it completely. Not just the financial which is like, how does your business stay afloat when you don’t let anyone use your product. Maybe not, like any business school would be like don't do that. But what I think will happen is, I think that everything is going to be out there like everyone's stems are going to be out there if they're going to be so many creator tools and so many different ways that creators will have their songs out there and so many more monetization opportunities but today, in 2022 if we just look at remixes right, I think the long-standing, for many years and people believe remix has cannibalized, from the industry perspective, that they cannibalized the original song they didn't want to encourage it. There was also the artist component of what if the artist hated the remix and so there really wasn't a whole lot of infrastructure in place to how remixers could get hold of stems and songs to be able to remix them. And so they would go to different lengths to try and get those parts and then they would remix it anyway and then it gets released so it gets uploaded to SoundCloud or where ever it gets uploaded and if, statistically unlikely, but if you have a breakout hit then the label might swoop in and claim that song, in which case the artist gets paid and the remixer gets nothing. Most of the time they're just like “Hey great job on this song which by the way you didn't have permission to do, but maybe you can produce something for us on spec next time”. Right like that that's the opportunity that you maybe get discovered is it at the remixer. The vast majority of remixes though, and the artists isn't getting paid for them because they're not necessarily easy to detect from a content recognition perspective, the remixer is not getting paid. It’s kind of broken. I love remixes. I think remix culture today remix is far more recognized by the industry as being additive that they extend the life cycle the original song that they drive a… Tik Tok is a great example of course…
Eric Knight: Sometimes they become bigger than the original…
Jessica Powell: There’s a ton of examples, So I think ultimately we will end up in a better place where there is where the remixers are incentivized to the artists are also getting paid and I need the same thing will happen with Stan but I just don't think it's fair today and so it just felt a little crappy to be like hey…
Eric Knight: I think that's great that you have that integrity as opposed to the competition. It’s funny because I think you have You have all the artists on the other side - artists that are encouraging and I believe only about ten or more years ago Trent Reznor did that with one of the Nine Inch Nail records where he gave the mix and I think they threw like USB things in bathrooms and people are picking them up and going, what is this, and then he was encouraging people to remix the songs so you have that part of it to you know but he was actually given the stems so it's interesting.
Jessica Powell: I think a lot of artists, we've worked with artists for the most part see it as a positive provided they like the quality right? I think for a lot of artists, particularly the managers, we talk to alot of managers, I like to pretend we talk to all the artists, like big name artists calling us up every day but usually it’s the managers, and they are there for them like when their artists have issues it's not because their instrumentals are floating around if they have an issue it's that someone like ripped off one of their stems or an instrumental and it was like it wasn't a good one like it sounds really bad it's full of artifacts or it's not the version that they wanted and for them feels almost like a brand issue right like it's not theirs and it’s not representative of their art. And so I think that absolutely will happen when people will continue to release. I mean at first there was Kanye's stem player with Donda. I think we will just see more and more stuff like that
Eric Knight: Yeah I agree. Can we talk about… - I know you touched about it earlier but I wonder if you can go into a little bit more detail, can we talk about Audio Shakes technology as it applies to sync because obviously that seems to be the big area that when Audio Shake started that you were getting a lot of requests from sync how?
Jessica Powell: Yeah so we have an Enterprise platform in this sense it works the same way for say an indie artist that are coming on to Audio Shake Indie. But you would have an account you come on you upload your song and you select your stem types and you can pick vocal, drum, bass, guitar, piano, or other or you can have just a turnkey instrumental so you just click instrumental and then about 30 seconds later you have an instrumental of the song. And we've been so we've been live I guess for 6-8 months now but they've been used in Dell computer commercials, an Oreo commercial, some Netflix trailers, a couple movies, podcasts they're getting used to professionally quite a bit. And some of those songs range from songs from 2019 and other ones are going all the way back to like mono track really old recordings. Which is kind of cool to hear. It’s always funny too when you separate because you hear flaws in the original recording or the unique characteristic of a recording from that time. We did one mono track the other day where you can actually hear the bass player flub a few lines which is totally covered up in the mix. So you have funny things like that too.
Eric Knight: Yeah I love that because it shows the imperfections of how it was. Everything today is so perfect that you're on a click track and everything is going to be like on the one and back then it was much more loose and I guess that's where you're hearing all of those imperfections
Ritch Esra: It was done by real people right! There was a documentary called the Funk Brothers which was all about the band that produced all of those Motown sessions from 1962 to 70, and they talked about this very thing that you just mentioned which is that, what made the Motown records all those records so great but you were speaking about. It was the human element and the mistakes.
Jessica Powell: and the immediacy of it right
Ritch Esra: and there's tons of mistakes in those records even though they're classic records but that you would see and because it gets hidden in the you know in the mix
Eric Knight: and you hear John Bonham's up a pedal squeaking in the classic Led Zeppelin songs you can listen and you can hear like *squeak squeak squeak* and it's actually his drum pedal that your actually.. and that's from one of the most legendary I mean, and great sounding bands all the time so yeah
Jessica Powell: One of the… I just completely lost my train of thought… I was going to say something that I’m really excited about, that we were just talking about,
Ritch Esra: About the Motown mixes and making mistakes
Jessica Powell: Its gone. Its gone.
Ritch Esra: Aw ok ok alright, Jessica can you tell us about any major artists that have used audio shake to create new versions of their existing work?
Jessica Powell: We had, so Green Day, This was really fun. Green Day, Kerplunk I think was recorded in 91? Yeah and they they've lost all the master tapes for that and so what they did was they took 2000 Light Years Away which is one of most popular songs from that album and created the stems in Audio Shake and so they would have created vocals, drums, bass, and guitar but what they did was they summed up the vocals the drums in the bass and then added that to Tik Tok because in Tik Tok you can make it possible for your fan or user to download the audio or rather to interact with the audio right themselves so they could create their own version like a duet. So what they did was they provided the audio of the vocals, drums, bass all summed up, and then Billy Joe played along live with the guitar and that was the video of him playing alongside the guitar to 2000 Light Years Away but what they did then was they released that vocal, drum, bass, audio so that all of their fans who played guitar could then play along with the band. which like the amount of time it just took me just not explained that which probably sounded way too complicated to the people listening. It’s less complicated than it sounded.
That should not exist in the future like clearly someone should build like, I am a 16 year old kid and I want to learn to play the guitar in Stairway to Heaven and I'd like, how exciting would that be like I remember learning to play the bass to like Fugazi’s Waiting Room and it's not a particularly difficult bassline but I remember like over and over to hitting like, on the CD just trying to pick out everything. It could be so much easier. You could just pull everything apart and then listen to it. So GreenDay did that. Maddie and the French producer just like a week or two I saw him I like, post on Instagram that he was using it live like on tour. He didn't have his whole set up traveling with him so he was creating stems. And then I had a chance to talk to him and I was like what are you doing with Audio, he’d reached out before to use it like I said you can't just sign up for it because of his content, a lot of his major-label. But what he was telling us too is he was able to listen to the song in new ways because of course he has all of his stems for the most part I think. And they're like gold to him but when you hear the song broken up you know there's different string like the like the dry stems and and how it sound like you can hear new things I think when you pull it apart with AI because it's not going to necessarily break it apart into 30 stems - it will break it into like seven or eight. So all that becomes a little bit different yeah.
Ritch Esra: Wow and it's it sounds so fascinating to hear it from that perspective I want to go back to something that you had said before which I thought was so interesting is about the area of monetization and you know not ripping off the artist, is blockchain and what that represents for the future payment of artist, is that possibility of integration at some point maybe we’re not there yet but at some point in terms of using a technology like yours and making sure that the people who are involved get paid. I mean I’ll give you an example where you know the artist get paid the writers of the remixer but where in blockchain perhaps technology could make sure that using something like yours for a new version could get paid?
Jessica Powell: Yes and no and maybe and all the things. I think that what is interesting about blockchain with respect to music is of course this idea of a transparent ledger so I think it would be difficult probably given all the data issues for historic recordings that might be difficult to really get an authoritative view and then record that on the ledger so to speak. And make sure that it actually is totally accurate. But you could for forward-looking music you could theoretically start everything right there, right from the start with like the correct data and then you would have it all in a place it's accessible to everyone and it would resolve disputes. I think that is an interesting potential future use case. They're still other pieces of it though it would have to be solved just because something's on the blockchain doesn't mean you got paid right? In a lot of the things that people talk about that the blockchain will resolve could actually be resolved if it could be resolved today too. So for example if you talk about, if we were talking about remixes right? Okay great so you've recorded, the song belongs to this person and then another person's created a remix that doesn't, if someone creates a remix of Bob’s song and all the rights are there and they create a remix of that song but there's nothing that inherently connects that node to like how that remix ends up in a totally different place. But that would be a problem today too. So I think you know where it could get interesting is if you perhaps had a closed environment where everything - all of the information - like where the creation is happening, where distribution is happening. Where consumption is happening.
If that was all happening in the same place then that kind of tracking would probably be easier but it brings up other issues too because do you necessarily want everything that's happening around creation happening in one place, one company despite all the ease and convenience that provides it introduces other issues. So, I think the blockchain is generally very interesting. I think we haven't seen all the things that will come of it. I'm generally pretty excited about it even if I think that a lot of the stuff that's happening right now is, it might fall away like I think something interesting will come of it.
Ritch Esra: What is interesting listening to you cuz it makes me think of the question - Are you discovering other uses for the technology other than what it was designed for?
Jessica Powell: Yeah! So we came from a place of like please we want to karaoke more stuff. But we've discovered for example that our model works really well for speech separation for example. Separating a dialogue is of interest to say music supervisors or people working in film. It also can work really well for their de-noising and other kinds of Technology. We haven't released anything yet but those are all things that the tech in some cases the existing model so for example like the instrumental and vocal, will do fine on dialogue uses too.
Ritch Esra: What’s next for Audio Shake’s evolution?
Jessica Powell: The immediately next, like I said we have Enterprise platform now we have the platform that's open for Indie artists Audio Shake Indie and then we will be releasing an API for third parties. So well third parties, that could be something like music library for example that want to go to create stems for all their tracks it could be a music service that is something that's licensing that is wanting to provide stems or instrumentals and various services that are built off of… karaoke of course it's another example finally we’ll get to karaoke. Our immediate next is still working on trying to get stems in the hands of people who need them.
Eric Knight: Jessica, are there any books or films that have really resonated with you professionally speaking that you could recommend to our audience?
Jessica Powell: I feel like people will know these, I really enjoy the podcasts like Song Exploder and Switched on Pop. I love hearing artist talk about how a song came about. It's always so different from what you think it is or what the meaning of the song it's name is usually so wildly different from what was in your head and how that intersects with composition I think is really really interesting. Then I'm working my way through the music business tome that everyone tells you to read which all the sudden I'm forgetting my name if I said it's like how the music business works…
Eric Knight: All You Need to Know about the Music Business
Jessica Powell: Yeah it’s so huge. It’s so huge. But, I'm working my way through it, it's very good.
Ritch Ersa: Jessica what advice can you offer our listeners who are wanting to pursue a career in the music business?
Jessica Powell:If we’re thinking music tech perhaps, I mean I think the biggest thing is to read what's going on at music tech to understand what the opportunities are or if you want to join or if you don't want to start your own thing but joining a company, I think that looking you know or reading what people are doing is probably the best way. It’s also the best like form of hunting for companies right because a lot of the companies in music tech, they're not going to be the size of Google they’re going to be smaller like us or growing. They're not going to start going to be spending a lot of money on recruiting and advertising and so the best way to find out about them are going to be reading the publication that writes the most about music tech companies. So I would say, I feel like a lot of people in the industry, there’s a lot of Publications that people, they will cover tech as well but I think some of the ones, if you’re really looking for music tech coverage, that will also profile companies or talk about companies in the very early stages, I think Music Allies is a good one to read a new Digital Music News, those two in particular are there - some others too. I think really a lot are tied to start ups until they're great if you just got there digest mails - I think it's a great thing to scan if you're looking for a career because you can then go to everyone's career pages and stuff.
Eric Knight: Jessica, where can people best connect with you and Audio Shake?
Jessica Powell: So we're at audioshake.ai. If you were an indie artist just going straight to Indie.Audioshake.ai. And then we're on all the platforms as one must be it was just @audioshake.ai. Then I’m @LeMoko which is a very weird handle but from like when I was a kid on Twitter
Ritch Esra: Jessica thank you so much for coming and joining us we really really appreciate it thank you
Jessica Powell: Thanks so much for having me!
Ritch Esra: Thank you
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