Pan European Recording:
Leading the way with AI-powered music videos
In January, Pan European Recording released one of the very first music videos entirely made with artificial intelligence: ‘Waterfalls Views‘ by Koudlam. Maud Aulagnon, Image Project Manager, tells us how director Jamie Harley went about it, but above all, she talks about the label’s quest for innovation in both video and music.
Since its inception, the label has been a pioneer in the field of music video production. Always a step ahead, Pan European Recording has offered clips made with the help of drones, exploring video games, creating metaverses, in 360° or in meta-cinema. Maud Aulagnon describes these video adventures that she manages on a daily basis, in order to be as close as possible to the artists’ desires, and to allow them to reveal their creative universe.
How did the idea of making a video using artificial intelligence come about?
We’ve been working with Jamie Harley, a Swiss Army knife director-editor and friend, for over a decade and he’s always on the lookout for new techniques. All through December he was preparing a video, without really telling us. The year was just beginning when he proposed a date: he was eager to present us with an AI clip on the track ‘Waterfalls Views‘ by Koudlam. He made it using Stable Diffusion, a learning model which, with prompts, produces rather realistic images. As a theme, he chose the Hong Kong protests and the sickening use of weapons in general, and it blew us away.
Beyond video, Jamie Harley is a music lover, always a bit ahead of his time. A few years ago, he was making amapiano playlists way before everyone else. He brings a lot to the label: almost every artist on Pan European has at least one video that Jamie has worked on, whether it’s directing, editing or whatever. And we produce a lot of them!
What is the budget for such a video?
Jamie made it over the Christmas holidays so he could take his time. He wanted to test this learning model, and test himself at the same time, it was more of a first exercise. We hadn’t budgeted for this clip before we found out so I can hardly give an answer here. However, he worked day and night for 20 days! He had to work in shifts, in different time zones, to be able to exchange with technicians, graphic designers and developers from all over the world. He spent a lot of time there, so on an hourly rate, it can start to add up. On top of that, there are server rentals, pre-production and documentation costs.
That’s what we did for Flavien Berger’s ‘Berzingue‘ video, released on April 19. We had more time for preparation and discussion, which enabled us to draw up a budget and a financing plan to present to the SCPP aid commission.
Nevertheless, and even if the results are very different for the moment, it is certain that it costs less than renting a set, cameras, employing a technical team for a shoot, a post-production team, an editing room, etc.
"Pan European is an image label, because for us, image is as important as music."
Where does this desire to take risks in video as in music come from?
At Pan European, we sign more people than musical styles. There is a very important human factor. All our artists, when they arrive, have already developed a vision or at least ideas that are just waiting to be explored. In this respect, we can say that we take “risks” by accompanying them at all costs and by helping them create their identities, whether in music or image.
Some artists already know which director or artist they want to work with, like Jonathan Fitoussi with Sabrina Ratté, or Flavien Berger with Robin Lachenal or Vimala Pons, and we do everything we can to make it happen. Others need more guidance in their choices, each artist has his own process.
Pan European is an image label, because for us, image is as important as music. It’s really an element that’s brought to the forefront on each of our releases. Not everything is at the same level of finishing, but it’s important for us to put out beautiful things that match our mentality.
That’s why, as an image project manager, I pay a lot of attention to the choice of collaborators: we have to find the most suitable profile for each artist. We will give preference to directors or production companies who know and appreciate the label, which brings a certain amount of trust. And sometimes we do the production ourselves.
Is this artistic branch of the label essential to the development of the artists?
Of course, it is very important, because photos, covers, music videos are communication mediums for the artists, as an essential support to the successful diffusion of their music.
For promotion and marketing, you always have to produce a lot of content and assets. So we try to produce music videos for each of the singles. Very often, press agents tell us that they can hardly work on a single without visual content, especially on developing artists, so we look for solutions, sometimes on a low budget using found footage.
It’s unfortunate that the sources of income from the video are almost non-existent. This is where labels and record companies take financial risks, the video will bring visibility to the project (public, media, platforms), and this will be reflected in sales and concerts, but the gain is not immediate or necessarily visible.
A small source of return on investment exists if the clip is selected for TV or platform, thanks to the broadcasting rights. We supply the clip in TV format, respecting specific specs, to IDOL, which will upload it to platforms such as IMD/Peach where TV channels like W9 or MTV come to use it. This opens the rights to the payment of broadcasting rights managed by organisations like SCPP or SPPF.
What are the most innovative videos you've released so far?
There was the video with drone footage on Koudlam’s ‘Benidorm Dream‘, directed by Jamie Harley in 2014, when we were still in the infancy of the technology. Somehow we benefited from the legal limbo at the time, otherwise we would never have been allowed to fly over the city.
More recently, we released a video game clip: Koudlam’s ‘Precipice Fantasy‘, directed by Morgan Navarro & Robin Kobrynski reproducing Koudlam’s avatar using generative tools such as Meta Human or DAZ 3D. And as early as 2015, the same directors created the clip of ‘Transperu‘ inspired by the Second Life metaverse.
We also published a VR (360°) clip for ‘In Your Eyes‘ by Maud Geffray feat. Flavien Berger directed by Pierre “Pyaré” Friquet and Stu Campbell in 2017. To get the best experience, specialized glasses were needed but nobody had them. In parallel the clip was played at festivals, broadcasted on Mubi, and then the broadcast rights were bought by the HULU platform.
Another one of the more original clips we have published is in meta-cinema, a concept consisting of filming and broadcasting at the same time (in sequence), revealing the mechanisms of a shoot. In France, it is a technical innovation specific to these two directors, Jeanne Frenkel and Cosme Castro. Flavien Berger worked with them on the video for ‘Bleu Sous Marin‘ from the album Leviathan in 2015 and on the film Adieu Bohème, at the invitation of the 3rd Scène by Opéra de Paris in 2017. Recently, they repeated the experience for the TV channel Arte, with Jour de Gloire, a film about the 2022 Presidential elections, where we discover the reactions of the public live.
With Artificial Intelligence, there are new possibilities and improvements almost every day. There are new perspectives that I couldn’t even conceive, I think we’re going to be amazed in the years to come!