Ahead of Israel’s 75th Independence Day on April 26, music industry leaders were racking their brains on how to best celebrate the occasion.
An ideal song for the occasion, they decided, would have been a duet by two of the country’s greatest singers – Zohar Argov and Ofra Haza. The only problem is that they both passed away many years ago.
And yet, a beautiful, new and completely original duet soon followed, garnering a very enthusiastic and emotional welcome by the crowds. How? Using innovative music technology, artificial intelligence and a whole lot of creativity.
The song was produced by Israeli startup Session 42, which brings together cutting-edge technology and more traditional aspects of the music industry in a bid to expand existing boundaries.
“Our AI song is the first artificial intelligence song that was released into the world in a formal way, properly onto the radio and streaming services, and not as some type of social-media joke,” explains Session 42 CEO and cofounder Oudi Antebi.
“What makes us unique is that we incorporate technologies in the creative process when it makes sense. The whole world is talking about AI in the music world in a very binary way, in the sense that it will replace people and that we won’t need people anymore. But we believe that these tools allow creators to break all creative limitations.”
The innovation bug
Antebi is a serial entrepreneur, with three successful startups behind him. The music industry, he notes, actually makes perfect sense in terms of business.
“I’ve always loved music, and it really interested me on the innovation and business side,” he says. “Music is something that will always exist in all kinds of forms; it’s not some kind of passing craze.
“So I caught the innovation bug once again and realized that I need to establish an initiative that’s slightly different than anything else I’d done until then, and joined forces with three Israeli super-producers – Stav Beger, Yinon Yahel and Tal Forer –as well as Amit Shine on the business side of things.”
That was a year and a half ago. Session 42 has since released 120 songs, including some of Israel’s most recent hits.
“We don’t develop the technologies. Rather, we scout for technologies in the music-tech world and incorporate them into our work process,” Antebi notes.
“We work with the companies that create these technologies and are usually the first ones to adopt them. That’s how we stay innovative. We aim to become kind of a design partner for the music-tech companies.”
Session 42 incorporates these technologies across all musical processes, from AI that creates virtual voices and instruments and ChatGPT capabilities to data analysis that analyzes a song or artist’s reception and helps build a strategy on it, or a distribution system that calculates royalties in advance.
“We aim to become kind of a design partner for the music-tech companies.”
“Advance payments,” Antebi explains, “used to be a tricky business between the distribution companies and the artists. We’re going to launch a system in the coming months that will allow artists to do it in a very simple way, using an algorithm that can predict the song’s behavior and how much it will get played, and then based on that they’ll receive advance payment.”
He says Session 42 is “a music-making factory that uses all these technologies to both create and commercialize music.”
“In Israel, the music companies generally don’t produce the content. Traditionally, a music label deals with the business side of music. The artists take their budget elsewhere to produce their music. We, on the other hand, are a music company that creates content. Song creation is at the center of things, and the business surrounds it – our complex is studios, not offices.”
Israel’s top artists come to create music at Session 42’s complex of seven recording studios in South Tel Aviv.
In true startup fashion, the company raised funds from angels and investors. Its 19 employees all receive options and other high-tech perks.
Session 42 is now in touch with the American music industry. It recently brought over to Israel four leading songwriters and producers and created a lot of music with them. One output is a song that’s now in the process of placement – deciding which artist will perform it.
“We’re trying to do big and different moves from others in the Israeli music industry,” Antebi says.
“It’s a lot of fun for us to work with Israeli artists, but we also understand that as well as being Startup Nation, Israel’s also becoming ‘Content Nation.’ What began on TV is now expanding to the music world,” he notes, referring to the huge success of Israeli television and film content abroad.
“At the end of the day, we’re letting the music speak for itself, even though I know that sounds terribly clichéd. We’re making good songs and good things happen.”
Antebi admits he and his cofounders are “pretty big romantics when it comes to music. It’s something emotional. You can’t just look at it as a business. It’s a work of art and people connect with it.”
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