Jukedeck.
Backed

Backed from DECEMBER 2015

"A year in, I heard the output for the first time - an incredibly simple hymn tune, but one that had never been heard before."

Jukedeck have created the world’s most advanced artificially intelligent music composition software that generates original, high-quality, customisable music in seconds. They’re tackling a huge music licensing nightmare and pushing the boundaries of AI creativity.

Ed Rex and Paddy Stobbs, Jukedeck Co-Founders

People seem excited about the potential for a musical tool that gives producers music to work into their own songs.

Ed Rex, Co-Founder and CEO

The concept of using computers to compose and generate music is not a new one. Ada Lovelace first predicted their use for music generation in the mid-nineteenth century, while the first instances of computer-generated music dates back to the late 1950s with the release of the Illiac Suite. From the mid-1990s onwards, David Cope, a professor at the University of California, designed a series of computer programmes that generated a body of classical and modern works so human in its quality that it confounded music critics at the time. And more recently, Melomics, a project based at the University of Malaga, developed a computer capable of composing original, contemporary classical music in a style of its own.

But by far and away the most sophisticated music composition software ever developed is that built by the team at Jukedeck. The current version of their software, Jukedeck Make, can compose and produce original music in 4 different styles, to any length, instantaneously.

Unlike most other attempts in this space, Jukedeck was not conceived as a purely academic project. The brainchild of musical prodigy Ed Rex, a Cambridge-educated musician and published composer, Jukedeck started life back in 2010 when Rex realised the immense potential for computer-generated music to solve the growing problems associated with music licensing. As content has rapidly moved beyond TV to streaming online across multiple platforms, content licensing has become horrendously complicated. Combined with the unparalleled increase in content creation and consumption - over 400 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every minute, 17,000 games are released on the App Store every month, and there are over 75,000 global video producers releasing between 3 and 30 new videos a week - the need for low-cost, high quality, royalty free music is huge.

Existing offers - think Audio Network, Getty, Epidemic Sound - centre around providing large banks of pre-existing, human-generated tracks, each sold with simplified licensing contracts. They are impossible to navigate, the music neither unique nor customisable, and the contracts expensive. In contrast, Jukedeck’s software creates original, human-quality music, customisable by length, genre, mood and instrument, at the touch of a button, for an affordable price. And cracking music licensing issues is just the tip of what this technology will be used for in the future.

People seem excited about the potential for a musical tool that gives producers music to work into their own songs.

Ed Rex, Co-Founder and CEO

Ed Rex at Techcrunch Disrupt London (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

The Jukedeck team at their London HQ

If you’ve got to spend every hour of every day with someone, you may as well like them. And I’m told we have good rapport on stage or something?

Patrick Stobbs, Co-Founder and COO

Ed and Paddy winning Techcrunch Disrupt London (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Imagine a world in which the music you listen to is generated on-the-fly to enhance your moods; or in gaming, original music composed to respond to gameplay so that each player has a unique experience. Furthermore, we see a huge opportunity for the technology to be used as a composition tool for artists. But perhaps the most significant legacy Jukedeck may leave behind is in exposing us to totally unique formulations of music, and not those based on the recombination of human generated musical forms, and thereby challenge our preconceived ideas about creativity and AI.

The first iteration of Jukedeck’s software was a rule-based, algorithmic programme built by Rex in C++. It constructed music, note by note, from scratch, using a large number of musical structures and rules that Rex had translated into code. Although it performed its function well, it was clear early on that this approach would limit the software’s speed of development and Jukedeck began to develop a hybridised version, using the structures from the rule-based system as its underlying framework, but with machine learning at its core: Jukedeck’s software now employs deep neural networks to analyse large bodies of existing music and by tweaking these networks to understand what to pick up on in the training data, can get them to learn the basic rules of music composition without actually teaching them outright. The melodies this process generates are then adapted and built on by other systems, including Markov chains and the existing rule-based system for factors such as large-scale form.

In 2011, Rex began this immense project as the sole founder. But it was through teaming up with with old friend and Cambridge contemporary, Patrick Stobbs that Jukedeck became the company it is today. Stobbs, an ex-Google employee, who spent 3 years negotiating large contracts with video and games companies and is a hugely talented musician in his own right (Stobbs won a University Choral Scholarship), added much needed commercial and operational experience to the project. Together, they went about building a truly all-star team with a simple hiring mandate: world-class technical talent combined with a passion for music. Rob Reng, for example, Jukedeck’s CTO, was a record producer for labels such as Ministry of Sound. Pierre Chanquion, a software engineer, was formerly a session bassist for artists such as Katy B, while Gabriele Medeot, an engineer on the machine learning side of the business, has a Masters in A.I. and Robotics, doing his final Thesis at the Center for Digital Music at Queen Mary.

At Backed, we are thrilled to be supporting such a talented, dedicated and passionate group of people embarking on this hugely challenging mission.

The
Interview

We caught up with Ed Rex and Patrick Stobbs to talk about music, creativity and AI

Jukedeck in 140 characters

An artificially intelligent musical composer that lets you create unique, customisable, royalty-free music for your videos.

What was your Eureka moment?

It actually came a year or so in; I’d been working on the prototype without audio, just printing out rows of notes every time I ran the program, but a year in I heard the output for the first time - an incredibly simple hymn tune, but one that had never been heard before. That was when I decided this might actually work.

What's it been like going into business with your best friend??

Right back at you…

Bearing in mind that our other friends might read this and one wrong word and we’ll never live it down, I’ll just say it’s been great. If you’ve got to spend every hour of every day with someone, you may as well like them. And I’m told we have good rapport on stage or something?

Paddy Stobbs at Techcrunch Disrupt London (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

What's the reaction been like from people within the music industry?

Really good. People seem excited about the potential for a musical tool that gives producers music to work into their own songs.

Cope argues that musical creativity is just a form of recombination. To what extent can Jukedeck push the creative boundaries of music?

I think that claim is right to an extent: musical creativity certainly seems to draw heavily on recombination. However, I think there’s more to it than that: there are elements of emotion and of responding to external, non-musical events that also seem to play a big part in the creative process.

In 5 year's time, what's Jukedeck going to be known for?
- Hopefully for making music more personal -

Ed Rex, Co-Founder and CEO

You've built an amazing team at Jukedeck. What are your hiring secrets?

We only hire people who really excite us. I think that, before you reach 50 or so people, you shouldn’t settle for any less.

What other early-stage startups excite you the most?

Ed: Do Magic Leap count as early-stage? They’ve not launched yet, so I’ll claim they do. I like startups who aren’t just iterating on an existing idea, but who are completely rethinking what’s possible: Oculus are a good example. And pretty much any AI- or Blockchain-based company.

Paddy: What he said. And closer to home, I’m genuinely excited by Unmade - especially if they’ll eventually knit me my favourite fashion item - socks.

What 2 pieces of music would you take to a desert island?

Ed: Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, more for its first page than anything else; and Death Cab For Cutie’s Plans, one of those rare albums that doesn’t have a bad track on it.

Paddy: Rachmaninoff’s Vespers - for the memories of singing it as a child, and its beauty; and Lord Kitchener’s Dr Kitch, which is guaranteed to cheer you up once the water’s run out.

Find out more about Jukedeck, Ed and the team at jukedeck.com