Hollywood and the Entertainment Industries Jump into Wellness

Move over purists; big media means wellness for all
By: Beth McGroarty

INTRODUCTION

The ways that wellness has rewritten vast industries such as food, travel, beauty, real estate and fashion have been endlessly documented. Fewer people have paid attention to how wellness is starting to shake up the global entertainment industries, how more innovative wellness programming is hitting that box that is the center of most people’s homes: TV, and how new music-for-wellbeing concepts and platforms are transforming the $50 billion global music industry. Experiments across the entertainment industry— to deliver more wellness programming in more creative and meaningful ways—will heat up in 2021.

Wellness music:

As more people seek music as intentional medicine (to de-stress, sleep, focus or work out), the music industry is responding. The big streaming music sites (Spotify, Amazon, Apple, etc.) are really ramping up their music- for-wellbeing content, essentially making “wellness” a new listening channel. Big artists are experimenting with creating music that heals; meditation apps are becoming full-blown record labels; and radical new technologies, including “generative” music platforms that create an always-unfolding healing soundscape based on your biometrics, are poised to emerge out of the start-up lab and onto Big Media platforms.

WELLNESS WILL KEEP SHAKING UP THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

We named “wellness music” a major trend last year, looking at the new ways that music was being created as intentional medicine through new technologies, experiments and experiences. We explored how the mainstream music industry was making moves to deliver music for wellbeing; how meditation apps were expanding into wellness music, signing huge artists to create adult lullabies or meditative tracks; and how new “generative,” AI-powered apps that pull your biological and situational data to create made-for- you, always-changing healing soundscapes that you can tune into anytime were rising.

We argued that music would increasingly be created as precision medicine (for stress, sleep, focus, a better workout, or just some trippy, ambient bliss) and that more people would turn to the new wellness music and sound creations as therapy. Last year, the trend felt nascent; with the year-long anxiety attack that was 2020, it kicked into a higher gear, and we predict that the music-for-wellbeing concepts and platforms will really shake up the global music industry in 2021 and beyond. Look for moves from the big music streaming sites; more wellness music/sound integrations on smartphones, TVs, apps and wearables; and more artists experimenting with creating music that heals.

The pandemic accelerated both the consumption of music and people turning to music specifically for mental health relief. A Samsung UK study found that compared to 2019, roughly a quarter of millennials are now listening to over five hours of music a day—and over half rate music their number one “feel-good” source in 2020. A global study1 from NYU, McGill University and the University of Barcelona found that music was the number one way people were tackling anxiety during COVID-19 (more than sex, alcohol, working out, etc.), and that music was the only solution that actually lowered their depression. Spotify reported that global listening time for their mental health playlists doubled in 2020.

“GENERATIVE” MUSIC, WHERE TECH MEETS YOUR BIOMETRICS, WILL TAKE MUSIC-AS MEDICINE TO RADICAL PLACES

A Spotify can use algorithms to create wellness playlists (from existing music) that reflect your musical tastes. But the march of AI and biometric technologies has given birth to “generative” sound technologies, which work by capturing your biometric and situational data to create an always-unfolding sound environment (sequences of chords, beats, tones, keys and musical textures) designed to nudge your brain and body in the right direction—whether you need to calm down or wake up.

Mubert, Lucid, Wavepaths, and Endel are leaders in generative wellness sound technologies. Berlin- based Endel is doing fascinating things and is poised to expand their technology and reach (2 million downloads already) in important ways (they recently raised another $5 million).

Endel was named Apple Watch’s “2020 App of the Year” (no small feat), and it works by using a wearable to pull your heart rate, movement, the weather, your location, and circadian data (your sleep/wake cycle and exposure to natural light). It then takes all these inputs to create a unique-to-you, neuroscience-based soundscape to help you either relax, focus or sleep. Endel’s soundscapes are grounded in the concept of
the “flow state” (when a person is completely immersed in an activity), made famous by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi and his seminal book Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience. The company uses brain wave measurement technology and SleepScore Labs testing to validate that their sound interventions actually work.

Endel doesn’t call their soundscapes “music”: it’s the opposite of catchy tunes designed to be intentionally listened to; rather, it’s an ambient “sound blanket” that’s “almost like adding another biological function to our body”—as unconscious as breathing. For instance, since it knows your usual resting heart rate, if it’s elevated and you’re not moving, it unleashes soundscapes to calm you down (synching the beats to your heartbeat); if your energy drops after two awful Zoom calls, it energizes you for the next one. With biometric sensor tech evolving at lightning speed (from your cortisol levels to facial expressions), the generative sound platforms from companies like Endel or Mubert will keep getting better at delivering precise, real-time sound medicine. But with the explosion of health trackers pulling more and more data on your physical and mental state, privacy issues will reach crisis levels. Endel’s position of not sharing any of their users’ data will be crucial to their future success—and other companies should take note. The benefits of personalization die with the prostitution of data.

Endel is working with artists: They collaborated with Grimes (now known as C), using her musical/ lyrical composition as the building blocks for their new “AI Lullaby.” Their CEO, Oleg Stavitsky, talks about working with more artists so that when they release a regular album, it will be accompanied by a functional, adaptive album, so it can work as a soundscape for when you have to work or are trying to go to sleep. And he says, “their big vision is to ultimately go beyond sound.” In 2021, they will release an app for Apple TV that incorporates video into their generative music experience. And Endel wants to use their technology to transform your total environment beyond sound, using biometrics to change up elements like temperature and lighting in your home in real time—and Stavitsky says that reality is “not far away.”3

We elaborate on Endel here because it’s important to grasp how technology (advances in biometrics, AI and Big Data) is creating a dramatically new kind of “music” for wellness, and one that makes possible a Holy Grail: delivering evidence-based sound/music that could help a specific person with what they specifically need at a specific time.

The huge tech companies, an Apple, Amazon or Samsung, could take this Holy Grail mainstream. Their devices (from health wearables to music delivery platforms) all “talk” to each other now, and Frank Fitzpatrick at Forbes asks, who among them (including Spotify) “will connect the dots first?” He argues for Apple, already heavy into health and wellness, who has made music a key feature at the new Apple Fitness+, and who also recently hired a Head of Strategic Music Initiatives that is talking to generative music start-ups (and the same person who signed the Endel algorithm to a record deal when at Warner Music). Amazon is rushing into healthcare and wellness and could connect its new fitness tracker, Halo, (which goes so far as to gauge people’s emotional states via voice analysis) to music/ sound delivery at Amazon Music and TV. Samsung is already connecting its wearable to its new Samsung Health platform on its smart TVs—and notably, they just released a forecast of how tech will rewrite the future of music, putting emphasis on generative music for wellbeing powered by biometrics. Perhaps a telling sign…

This is an excerpt from the “2021: Hollywood and the Entertainment Industries Jump into Wellness” trend in the 2021 Global Wellness Trends Report.

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1 Ernest Mas-Herrero, Neomi Singer, Laura Ferreri, and Michael McPhee, “Rock ’n’ Roll but Not
Sex or Drugs: Music Is Negatively Correlated
to Depressive Symptoms During the COVID-19 Pandemic via Reward-related Mechanisms,” PsyArXiv, December 22, 2020, DOI:10.31234/osf. io/x5upn.

2 “IFPI issues annual Global Music Report,” IFPI, May 4, 2020, https://www.ifpi.org/ifpi-issues- annual-global-music-report/.

3 Kevin Rose Foundation podcast, December 14, 2020. 4 Kevin Rose Foundation podcast, December 14, 2020.

One thought on “Trend: Generative Wellness Music Is Reaching More Ears”

  1. All of you with the dear team,
    What an interesting reading, which reminded me of my own experiences with healing music! Well done. Did you know, by the way, that the notion of healing music has been around in western culture for a thousand years now, much longer in the east, for that matter, and both the spiritual and physical effects were researched indepth? It culminated in the Solfeggio-frequences, a phenomenon well known to renaissance and baroque composers.
    Most recently, the effect of Binaural beats are been looked at, a technique only available with the invention of Stereo sound ( readers my age may remember a Sono world..)
    I strongl believe in a much stronger awareness for these effects in therapy and wellness, so I am looking forward to more results brought to us via your work.
    Thanking you, and keep up the good job, Matthias

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