MINNEAPOLIS, MN | September 8, 2023
They have 'the chills' down to a science
Minnetonka-based miir's software can identify the most moving parts of music
"Eye of the Tiger," the iconic theme song from the 1982 film "Rocky III," has been featured in commercials for years.
It's nearly a four-minute song, and finding the perfect snippet to splice into a 30-second TV spot can take sound producers hours. But a Minnetonka audio company can speed up that process to seconds using its newly developed algorithm.
The former music executives and neuroscientists behind MIIR Audio Technologies and its MIIR platform — MIIR stands for Music Intelligence Impact Retrieval — found a way to search mathematically rather than instinctively for the most impactful moments in songs that elicit emotional response. The technology could have a big impact on industries including film, music streaming and health care.
The company's patented software analyzes digital audio files, 0s and 1s of binary code representing vocals, pitch, density of instrumentation and chord changes among a slew of other elements.
Sub-algorithms extract information on pitch, rhythm, volume and so forth from the code. That extracted data turn into detectors that create the indexing. It's a form of mathematical "hearing" that allows the software to detect parts of songs that evoke human emotion.
The software then curates an index of songs based on desired sound.
"We've reverse engineered the brain's emotional response to music," said Daniel Levitin, a professor, neuroscientist, inventor, former Columbia Records executive and chief science adviser at MIIR.
In 2017, MIIR Chief Executive Officer Paul Moe and others from the music and film industries discussed problems with digital music platforms, agreeing that too many songs had flooded the internet and made music search and discovery ineffective. They thought there was a need for technology that expedited the music-selection process.
In 2019, Moe - whose past musical clients include Prince, Whitney Houston and Diana Ross - started forming the company, which officially launched in August 2020.
For an individual, the tech can create personalized playlists. It's unlike other streaming platforms, where suggested content is popularity-driven, MIIR lead developer and co-inventor Aaron Prust said.
On a larger scale, companies can do in seconds what would typically take days.
Last year, the chief executive of an independent record company working as a producer on a television series asked to sample MIIR's system to fill a specific scene with music, Moe said.
MIIR's team combed its catalog of 100,000 songs, searching for the specific sound - fast-paced, grungy, country - the producer requested. Within 30 minutes, the tool narrowed the list of possible songs to 10.
The goal, Moe said, is to create partnerships with large companies with an eye toward one of them eventually acquiring MIIR, as many already "play in all of those sandboxes," he said. The companies are in fields such as music streaming, film and television, advertising and non-pharma medical technology.
"Our feeling is that large companies are already generating the revenue, and they already have the customer base," Moe said.
Within the past decade, billion-dollar corporations have gobbled up audio-technology companies that have figured out how to monetize music intelligence.
In 2014, music streaming company Spotify paid $100 million to acquire Echo Nest, a company that invented a system that can identify songs to recommend to listeners based on listening habits.
In 2018, Apple Inc. spent $400 million to acquire Shazam, a music-recognition app that can identify songs through a phone's microphone.
The business is "well positioned" for acquisition, Moe said, adding the company has three years of audited financials, no debt and more than $4 million in capital raised from private investors, including many medical doctors that reside in Minnesota. MIIR has also conducted three scientific validation studies, Moe said.
Using biometrically driven, personalized music to assist in pain management, depression and overall wellness is a business vertical showing increasingly high value, Moe and Levitin said.
Studies show that music can be an effective addition to medical treatment.
Kevin Smith, the chief of staff and chair of radiology at St. Cloud Hospital, is also an investor in MIIR. In his area of practice, the company's technology, Smith said, could curate relaxing music for patients feeling anxiety before MRI scans.
That would curb the need for medication or sedatives for any patient feeling claustrophobic in the scanner, Smith said. Music therapy as an alternative to drugs would lower the cost and risk of pharmaceutical treatments on a large scale, he added.