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DataMind Audio Offers Artists an Ethical & Lucrative Way to Use AI in Its VST Plugin

Photo by Techivation / Unsplash

The opinion that AI music startups should be founded by musicians to ensure fair compensation and ethical use of creative work is pretty much reflected in DataMind Audio, a UK music startup that created an ethical AI-powered VST plugin, which is basically a real-time AI-generative instrument.

Supported by IRCAM (Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music) and Edinburgh University, DataMind Audio introduces the Combobulator VST plugin, an AI tool that captures and manipulates the style of an artist, unlike conventional models that replicate existing works.

The core of the product is Artist Brain, a concept that represents "an artist's musical essence distilled by training a neural network on their life's work." Basically, it means that DataMind detects unique sounds and timbres and uses this data to create and interpret sounds, thus enabling producers, audio engineers, and artists to create new yet unique tunes while preserving the authenticity of the musician's style.

DataMind collaborated with multiple producers and modeled their "brains" paying them a 50% split of the profits, so artists can make passive income on their original work. One of the participants is Mr. Bill, a renowned producer and DJ from Sydney.

"This is the coolest opportunity to share my musical style with the world for other artists to experiment with and play without sacrificing my identity," says Mr. Bill in the press release. "I'm really excited to see what people create with these brand new sounds and textures inspired by my music. This is a genuinely creative ethical AI tool we’ve all been waiting to use."

Credit: DataMind Audio

"We don’t always know where our ideas and creative drive come from. Similarly, when we map an artist’s artificial Brain, there is a mysterious realm called latent space inside it," says music producer and technologist Ben Cantil, DataMind Audio co-founder. The Combobulator allows sound designers and music producers to explore this space in 64 dimensions, discovering newly generated, never-before-heard sounds. They can then manipulate them by means of an easy-to-use interface, to make entirely new, original music.

Green concerns addressed

Apart from an ethical approach to the AI powers leverage, DataMind addresses AI’s environmental impact too, committed to being a green company. To that end, the startup has created a solution that lets a CPU process rapid computations like a GPU, the graphical processing units that typically run large AI models. This means music producers can use The Combobulator for real-time audio synthesis in their DAW.

The heart of the the DataMind supercomputer is an electrical grid predominantly fueled by solar power, supplemented by a custom liquid-cooling system, which ensures a reduced energy footprint. All other cloud GPU services employed by the company for machine learning applications boast zero emissions.

A new kind of music engineer

In order to boost the development of the Artist Brains and Combobulator VST plugin, DataMind Audio saw the necessity for a new kind of music engineer tailored for the modern age and introduced the concept of "Model Reliability Engineers." These engineers, blending the talents of both musicians and coders, are entrusted with the challenging responsibility of fine-tuning the cognitive processes of their fellow musicians. Crafting a Brain necessitates a harmonious union of artistic intuition and scientific precision: "My job is collaborating with world-class artists to make a completely new product that makes never-before heard sounds and music in the AI universe," says MRE Yashique Chalil. "I’m well paid and so are they, and we don’t hurt the planet. That’s a dream job."

"What is fascinating is that there is so much more to learn about the capabilities of neural networks," says Dr. Martin Parker, Head of The Reid School of Music at The University of Edinburgh. "We are using our research to invent tools that serve artists first, and which build a creative community that is empowered financially and creatively by our application of AI. Datamind Audio is one of very few innovators out there who genuinely nurture artists and promote creativity using AI."

"There is a lot of valid concern about the future of creatives in the AI era, but in the area of sound design and music production, we’ve created a solution by artists, for artists: They are paid for their original work, get to use new tools and instruments to create original music with new products," says Catherine Stewart, Co-Founder and Managing Director at DataMind Audio. "Word is spreading in the music community — and artists are approaching us to train and sell their Brains for them. We launched with a group of globally renowned artists who know and trust us, but now that the word is out, we’re expanding our sound palette and Artist Brain marketplaces with some seriously big names. I’m proud we’ve come up with a strong business model for Artist-AI thrivability — where everyone genuinely benefits."

Combobulator now runs on Windows 10 and above, and on Mac OSX 12 and above. This version is a Beta. For more information, you can visit the DataMind's site.

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