Tech platforms that pull your biometric and other personal data to create an endless playlist or soundscape to improve your wellbeing are increasing.
The way music is created and consumed changes every decade or so: We’ve moved from vinyl to cassettes to CDs to streaming platforms (and back to vinyl). In the Global Wellness Summit 2021 trend on the rise of ‘wellness music,’ they explored a recent paradigm shift: If music has always been consumed around artist, song and genre, now more people want music served to them as mental therapy. They seek specific sound experiences to improve their wellbeing just when they need them.
Consider: Spotify reported that in the first 11 (pretty dark) days of 2021, their users made an astounding 7,500 playlists with the word “serotonin” in the title.
The trend looked at the many ways that tech start-ups and the music industry (from the big streaming music sites to meditation apps) are increasingly creating music as intentional medicine: It’s a new world of wellness playlists and sound creations that help de-stress, focus, sleep, work out or just achieve bliss.
The most fascinating of these technologies that was covered were ‘generative’ platforms that use biofeedback and biometric sensors and combine them with AI and algorithms to create an always-unfolding music and sound environment made specifically for the individual listener.
With a new hearables revolution (smart headphones/earbuds), technology now listens to you to create sequences of songs, chords, beats, tones, etc. with the goal of making you more well.
These technologies are moving faster out of start-up labs and reaching new ears. Endel, Wavepaths, Mubert, and The Lucid Project have been pioneers—and companies are now growing and making moves.
Endel works with Apple Watch to pull your heart rate, movement, weather and circadian data to create a neuroscience-based sound bath (of sorts) to optimise your day – calming you down after work or boosting your energy for another draining Zoom call. It was named Apple Watch’s “2020 App of the Year,” has new funding, has grown to more than 300,000 active monthly users, and is reportedly soon to launch a generative visual+sound wellness experience at Apple TV.
If you fear that music algorithms kill the artist, Endel (like other companies) is increasingly working with musicians, having created an AI Lullaby with Grimes and a Deeper Focus soundscape with Richie Hawtin (aka Plastikman). Wavepaths, founded by an Imperial College scientist, makes “adaptive music both for psychedelic therapy and as psychedelic therapy” (with famed artists) and has just launched a digital platform that will let people everywhere create their own healing soundscapes.
The big streaming music sites—Spotify, Apple and Amazon—are all making moves to create personalised music for wellbeing, and Spotify recently patented tech that can gauge people’s emotions to serve up the right and better music.
If these apps have been consumer-facing, we now see medicine start to experiment with generative music for wellness. UK hospitals are trialling MediMusic tech that uses AI and algorithms to deliver a personalised ‘musical drip’ to patients to fight pain and stress, and they are seeing promising results in lowering patient heart rates and stress.
Other trends forecasters such as The Future Laboratory have noted the huge boom in audio culture, how “getting into people’s ears has untapped potential,” and how generative music reveals how sound is the next wellness frontier.