You would imagine that machines are similarly incapable of capturing the minds, hearts, and wallets of us humans. After all, it is one thing for AI to replace human occupations that are tedious, repetitive, and not particularly high on the value chain of human ingenuity. It is an entirely different thing to have a machine come up with something that can delight us humans with innovative brilliance, originality, and feel — or even shape the sound of a song that can transport us to an emotionally complex place.
Landr, a Montreal-based company, wants to upend that notion by automating the intricate and complicated task of mastering audio tracks. Normally, mastering occurs in the final stages of the production of a song when it is tweaked and adjusted so that it sounds not just clear and consistent, but also richer, fuller, and true to what the artist had in mind and sans the inevitable audio blemishes that crop up during recording. Mastering has always been thought of as a process that is part art, and part science.
There has been a predictable uproar from music aficionados and sound engineers, lambasting the service for using the same algorithm to master all genres of music, for its tinny sound and its inability to navigate nuances — its fundamental lack of ‘musical understanding’ as described by one industry hand. This hasn’t deterred co-founder and chief creative officer Justin Evans, who says, in Canadian Business, that he feels their pain but ultimately “it’s like asking taxi drivers how they feel about Uber.”
Evans suggests that the way to look at Landr is in the same way we first began to view auto-focus in cameras, which allowed amateurs to improve their pictures but which also prodded pros to try new things. Apparently, only about one percent of music created ever gets mastered, because it is such an elaborate and relatively expensive process. Now, it sits within a mouse click’s reach of all of struggling musicians with stars in their eyes and songs in their heads.
Being able to master your song — however inexpertly it may be done — on the same day that you recorded it is a sensational leap, and music to the ears of professionals and amateurs alike. Landr allows you to record, master, listen, tweak, experiment, and redo, which could allow for all sorts of sound innovation in time, when the service has improved its algorithm and is able to detect genres and more complex mixes with better results.
Which makes Landr’s innovation the logical next step in the evolution of music in a machine-saturated world. Moreover, despite all the outcry, some of the big players in music are flocking to the Canadian company, with artists such as Tiga, Richie Hawtin, and Nas having employed its service. Music industry biggies, including Warner Music Group, have collectively pumped $6.2 million into the company.
“To be fair, Landr is an incredibly ambitious project! It’s amazing that it performs as well as it does. The algorithm will get better over time, but it can never replace a professional mastering engineer, because it lacks musical understanding.” Brian Hazard wrote in a Passive Promotion’s article. He continued “It can’t know whether occasional high frequency bursts are vocal sibilants that demand de-essing, or cymbal crashes. It can’t tell if the excess energy at 200 Hz is the characteristic warmth of a rich fretless bass, or vocal mud that needs to be cut. It doesn’t even know what genre your track is in. One size fits all.”
Can online mastering service Landr replace your mastering engineer? Your Choice!