We sat down with Pierre Langer, co-founder of Create Music to find out what makes the brand so unique.
I don’t think I’m exaggerating too much when I say that Create Music has the opportunity to make huge waves in the stock music and sound effects industries. Its approach is completely novel and revolutionary. The music – with their multiple variations and layers – all written by professionals and completely adaptable to any user’s music and FX needs. With the app, you can change the length and mix of any track and it automatically adapts, almost like magic. There’s really nothing else out there quite like it.
But there is no getting to know Create Music without the story of Pierre Langer and his partner Tilman Sillescu. The two go all the way back to music conservatory when Pierre was studying classical guitar and composition and Tilman was in his first years as a lecturer of new media at the conservatory. As Pierre’s time at conservatory was coming to a close, they both knew that they had to make a decision about their lives and career. Pierre didn’t want to go into teaching music, and he had found that he and Tilman had a great deal of things in common. They decided to continue their musical relationship after conservatory, but instead of being student and teacher, they became business partners.
Pierre always had had a strong interest in computers and computers had a growing influence on music. It made sense then to get to know the new technology of the time, Logic 3. “It was rather basic software compared to today,” Pierre says. “Well, not very basic, but it was the beginning of working with a sequencer and sampling software for us.”
At the time, there was a turn in the video games industry concerning music and sound. Gaming had come to a point where they could have fully developed soundtracks, and not just the 8-bit diddies of Mario Brothers. MIDI technology allowed for full orchestrations, and the sampling tech that was being developed allowed that to have an entirely new level of realism. It was a perfect direction for Pierre and Tilman and they got to work, founding their company Dynamedion in the process.
That was in 2000, over 20 years ago. There still was no Create Music, but the seeds of adaptive and interactive music had been laid. The other day, I was finally able to sit down with Pierre and ask about the genesis of the company and the concept.
Me: The idea for Create Music directly came from SmartSound. How did you first hear about them?
Pierre: We were writing music for games and sometimes you write something as a demo and you don’t get the gig and then you just have it sitting there. And what do you do with it?
We thought of what we could do with that music and we put it into production music libraries. I contacted American production music libraries. ‘Hey, we have this and this music. Are you interested?’ And then we made a few deals.
One of the first, if not the first, we worked with was actually SmartSound. They already had this adaptive music technology, which was the core of their Sonicfire Pro application, and they had this specific way for a composer to write the music. You had to write it in stems, with various beginnings and endings. That wasn’t typical at that time. Nowadays it’s normal to deliver stems, but back then it was not totally normal for production music.
We were very familiar with this kind of concept because it’s very similar to what happens in video games with interactive music, so it was pretty easy for us to write that kind of music.
This adaptive music that Smart Sound developed for their Sonicfire Pro desktop software is pretty amazing. What were your first thoughts on it?
I thought, well, it’s incredible, though you know that was 20 years ago or something, so it was the first versions and they weren’t as detailed and sophisticated as the current Sonicfire Pro is. I mean they started with 1.0 and now it’s at 6.5 but it was still amazing, and it was a very logical thing to do.
And it’s all done automatically when you use the software. It’s not AI music though is it?
No, it’s hand made by composers. You know there’s so many people who always say, ‘Well it all should be AI driven.’ And that’s the thing, that’s the final solution for some, to have an artificial intelligence or a neural network, right? Music on the fly and replace composers. And I always thought that this idea is not the right choice because you want to have the creative input and the emotional coloring of a composer.
You can have a machine compose music, but that is more like producing forms that it learned, and sometimes it is actually pretty impressive. And in some genres it’s stunning. It’s like wow, it sounds like Bach or Beethoven or whoever, but it’s still just forms. Music is so rich in all the different styles and influences and then there’s the sound and what instrument is used and why and all these decisions that you have to make that are emotional.
But we can use tech to make music more “intelligent” and enhance its usability. And SmartSound made it clear how we could do this.
How did you go from writing music for Smart Sound to owning it?
The owner wrote to me in 2016 saying, ‘You know, I’m in my early 60s now and I am thinking to retire and sell SmartSound. Do you perhaps know of anyone who would be interested in buying the business?’ And I was like, ‘Well, I’ll ask around.’
Thinking more about it, we noticed that it was a really interesting opportunity for us, and that’s whywe ended up buying SmartSound. We knew about it already, knew how the business worked. We knew about the metrics of the music royalties. We had no idea about the whole technical side – the software side – which is of course the core of it. So, we had to evaluate that. We actually did have this strategic idea of starting to do more software development, because that’s actually what we see as an important step to creating great audio content.
What was the biggest challenge taking over Smart Sound?
It’s very difficult to take over a software that had been written by other people for years and years and years. It took us like 2 years to really make sure that we understood what was going on with this software – not what’s going on with the music side, how the music was being edited and done, and made adaptive, that’s no rocket science, we knew that stuff – but the actual software source code itself was a challenge. The tool came with other bugs and other problems, and other plugins. And all the things that exist in all the different systems it runs on.
Especially with a legacy of customers that have been happy for 10 years, 15 years and have grown with that software and all of a sudden you have all these and you have to keep them happy and improve the product. And that’s very important because the last years prior to us buying Smart Sound had been pretty slow in terms of new things and progress with the software. And that is exactly why we started thinking about how can we bring this to the next level, which meant one thing: Improving Sonicfire Pro with a lot of new things (whichwe have included, especially in the last year).
And then there was Create Music? What’s the difference between it and Sonicfire Pro? Why did you guys decide to do things so differently?
OK, desktop software is good for a specific type of user, but a lot of people don’t want to install anything, they don’t want to use desktop software. They want to have it all in the browser as an online application. And that is why in 2018 we pretty quickly started to develop Create Music, which is exactly the same technology, evolved. It’s not really two different branches.
There’s the more traditional audience with Sonicfire, the people who grew with it. Then there’s the whole other audience, which is the social media people, creators, people who want to be make sure that they can access the software from wherever they are, from whatever workstation they’re on. And they want to do faster iterations, with a faster workflow, and you know perhaps a bit simplified, less detailed, and that is exactly why we built Create Music, because it’s a more intuitive thing and it’s just amazing.
It’s a perfect timesaver for any smaller video work, I mean you couldn’t do a one-hour video with that because it would become too slow over the Internet. But you can do a nice 3 minutes, up to 15 minutes. I think that’s the limitation we have given it, which is not a hard limitation, it’s just what it is. At a certain point it makes more sense to go back to the desktop software.
Why is Create Music on the subscription model?
We wanted them to be clearly separate. So Create Music is all about subscription. It’s focused on people needing that service, with all the updates, new tracks and sounds added automatically. You can switch the subscription on and off monthly, so it still is very flexible. Sonicfire Pro traditionally has offered buyout licenses – people can opt in for a subscription as well, but it is completely their choice. And we really want to give people the choice here and not frighten anyone off. A lot of the audience of the customers at SmartSound are used to the buyout model. They don’t want to do subscriptions, and it has been an ongoing discussion for everybody across the industry.
Create Music is aiming for a different type of audience than SmartSound: the creators and social media people. We’re setting it apart, so we have a clean new start. It’s the same tech. It’s the same music content. Although Create Music has sound effects in a completely different way that Sonicfire Pro has them, it’s not the same content on the sound effects side. The Create Music product is much more geared towards the social media crowd.
The advantage of the subscription model obviously, is that you have everything at your fingertips. You can access everything you want. You don’t have to think: Do I need to buy this song now prior to using it? And perhaps in the end I won’t end up using it. Then you get feedback from another client or from the client of the client saying, ‘Oh, I want a different piece of music.’ And if you have to buy the music outright, then you may just buy the wrong music. Then it’s also just very convenient to be able to use everything without needing to think about.
There is no quantity limitation; you can use as many tracks as you want in your project and as many sound effects as you want. But in order to use as many sounds and as many music tracks as you want, you need to be able to access them all.
It’s very clear what you pay for because it’s an annual fee or a monthly fee. And you know that this is your expense. And if you do this for commercial reasons like to produce videos or podcasts to earn money, then you know that in order to run your business, you need to invest in certain things. So you just buy into the service and you don’t have to buy a huge amount of software or a huge amount of music licenses right away and pay a lot of money. And then once you notice that your business is not running anymore, you can just cancel the subscription and you instantly get rid of the cost. There is no additional cost anymore. I mean, you can’t use the music for new products then, but all your old products are of course cleared forever.
What’s behind the name, Create Music?
Yeah, so that’s interesting. We thought about how to name it; we could just call it Sonicfire Online or Sonicfire App or whatever. But then we thought that could be confusing.
I came across this domain that we had been sitting on for a really long time, and thought, we own this Create Music domain, so why don’t we call it that? It fits. It was good for us. It worked well because it’s really a new name. It’s fresh, it’s completely independent from what Sonicfire Pro is and it’s just something where we can say, you know, let’s grow this from scratch in a way and make it available to as many people as possible. We might eventually reevaluate it and perhaps have something like a desktop version of Create Music, which will be a Lite version or a lighter version rebranded off Sonicfire Pro.
What’s the advantage of Create Music?
The big uniqueness that we have. The custom length feature, or ‘Drag & Drop Length’ as we call it, which is the major feature. But also of course the instant live mixing of the different variations. The timeline where you can directly arrange your music and your sounds to a video, change volume, add sound effects, and more. So it’s not a normal production music library, it’s a highly usable service of audio media production, music, library and sounds.
What do you see in the future for Create Music?
We are actually already working on a mobile version. People are starting to produce more and more directly with their mobile phones specifically on social media. It will be a bit simplified because otherwise it’s too complicated on the small screen, but the really nice thing about Create Music is that the key feature which you have is the adaptive music track, where you can just drag it to a new length. And then awesome, the software of the app rearranges the music track to the length you need.
It’s a very easy feature, in a way it’s very easy to handle on a mobile as well. This is what people really need or I would say even want. They have their video, they find the right track and they just need to put the track under the video and say adapt to the length or it can even be done automatically. They don’t have to cut, they don’t have to worry about an ugly fade in or fade out, everything is immediately perfect.
They don’t have to cut, they don’t have to worry about an ugly fade in or fade out, everything is immediately perfect.
They just need to find the music they like and that’s our second challenge, to have a good search engine and to write good music and everything else. Adding sound effects, doing mixing like for a voice over, getting ducking like for the lead instrument. Or all these advanced features that that are more going into audio mixing and audio editing. We’ll try to add all that too.
Create Music is a really amazing program. When I first saw it, I was pretty blown away. I can just sit there and play with all the different variations for hours.
It’s pretty inspirational in a way because you can. You kind of have a music track that sits at the right length to your video and then you can listen to it and you like it but then you change the different variation, and all of a sudden the video may get a new vibe and then you change to another variation and the video gets yet another vibe and then you may even say, ‘Hey replace this region that I now have with a completely different track.’ And it’s not cumbersome. You don’t have to delete this track and drag in a new one. You can just replace it instantly with any other track you listen to in the search.
And you get inspired again and often. You may have your final video and then you put music under it, but often you also have a piece of music and then you cut your video to it. Or you have a mixture like you have music that you like and you have a video, but you’re not sure about a few of the cuts in the video, and all of a sudden you start adapting the video to the music, even though the original music was selected based on the first.
It’s clear it’s good for video makers, because you can upload the video and work with it directly, but what about for podcasters?
Putting in your own audio is doable, where instead of triggering a video, triggering an audio file is something that we want to do pretty quickly, because for podcasters, that’d be great. I mean, you can do it right now. You could basically render a wave file into an MP4 and then just tell the app to play it back, and then you only have the audio, but it’s too cumbersome for the user. We gotta ease this pain for sure and make it able to play back just sound. It is also important to know that no video or audio that the user plays back in Create Music is actually being uploaded to our servers, it is just played back in the browser from the user’s computer. So there is no danger of copyright issues or data phishing or anything like that.
How is the music? Is it just one particular genre that Create Music is focused on?
We want a general catalog. We don’t want to only be the super hip modern artsy pop or electronica or rock or score. You know, not only feature music and new artists’ music. It should be a production music library. It should cover a very broad range of stuff and that also means that you have niche music styles that you know people may not be too interested in all the time, but if they need something specific then they will find it there and that is something that is also an important difference between us and our competitors. They might have a rather small and very curated catalog. They don’t cover enough different styles. They’re too specialized I think. And that’s something that we try to do differently with Smartsound and Create Music, and we have new music coming in twice a month as albums, and each album focused on a different genre.
Like I said, it’s a great program, so I hope people find it and take advantage of it.
Try it out for yourself at Create Music.