"Artists will be able to sing in languages they don’t speak and perform duets with their younger selves": UMG partners with makers of AI-powered vocal plugin MicDrop

(Image credit: SoundLabs)

Universal Music Group has announced a partnership with SoundLabs, a music tech company developing AI tools for music creators. The world's biggest record label, UMG works with Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, Adele and Kendrick Lamar, among many others.

UMG and SoundLabs' agreement will enable the label's artists and producers to make use of SoundLabs' MicDrop, an AI-powered plugin compatible with all major DAWs that can be trained on an artist's voice to create custom vocal models to work with in the studio.

This will enable UMG artists to "explore bleeding-edge vocal transformations", which include applying the timbre of their voice to vocal recordings from other artists (or instrumental stems), transforming speech to singing, and transposing the language in which a vocal recording is sung. 

This means that UMG could transform an artist's song into a foreign-language version to be released in a different territory without that artist ever having to step inside a vocal booth. UMG even suggests that the software will enable artists to "perform duets with their younger selves" by training the software on archival recordings.

UMG points out that artists' vocal models will only be available for their own personal use and not available to the general public, and is keen to stress that SoundLabs will give artists' "full approval and control" over anything produced with their vocal models.

In March, UMG partnered with Roland to lay out its seven Principles for Music Creation with AI, an "ethical framework" surrounding the application of artificial intelligence in music-making.

Back in 2023, it was reported that UMG was in talks with Google over licensing the voices of artists in its catalogue for use in AI-generated songs, with a view to developing a tool that can be used by fans to transform their own voices into those of UMG artists' using AI tech.

SoundLabs is a new AI tech company headed up by Grammy-nominated producer, artist and software developer BT, who has previously worked on iZotope's Stutter Edit and BreakTweaker plugins. "It's a tremendous honor to be working with the forward-thinking and creatively aligned Universal Music Group," BT said in a statement. 

"We believe the future of music creation is decidedly human. Artificial intelligence, when used ethically and trained consensually, has the promethean ability to unlock unimaginable new creative insights, diminish friction in the creative process and democratize creativity for artists, fans, and creators of all stripes."

Chris Horton, UMG's SVP of Strategic Technology, said that the company “strives to keep artists at the center of our AI strategy, so that technology is used in service of artistry, rather than the other way around [...] SoundLabs will allow UMG artists to push creative boundaries using voice-to-voice AI to sing in languages they don’t speak, perform duets with their younger selves, restore imperfect vocal recordings, and more.”

MicDrop is scheduled for release later this summer.

Listen to a demo of what the plugin can do over at UMG's website.

Revisit our 2023 feature on AI vocal modelling.

Matt Mullen
Tech Editor

I'm the Tech Editor for MusicRadar, working across everything from artist interviews to product news to tech tutorials. I love electronic music and I'm endlessly fascinated by the tools we use to make it. When I'm not behind my laptop keyboard, you'll find me behind a MIDI keyboard, carefully crafting the beginnings of another project that I'll ultimately abandon to the creative graveyard that is my overstuffed hard drive.