Warner Music joins with Apple Music, Rothco in child speech therapy initiative

‘Saylists’ are aimed at augmenting children’s speech therapy by helping with repetition

Warner Music has joined forces with Apple Music and Accenture Interactive's Rothco to create custom playlists aimed at helping children with speech therapy.

The “Saylists”, which include tracks by Dua Lipa, Lizzo and Fatboy Slim, are designed to augment speech therapy for children by helping with the repetition of difficult words, phrases and syllables in a more fun and engaging way. The lists are centred around challenging speech sounds, such as “ch”, “k” and “s”.

"Our reason for creating this project was to create a process where repetition we know is vital is a bit more engaging. We thought what better way to do that than partner with music," said Zara Flynn, managing director at Rothco.

“Through our research we found loads of rappers and singers have all had issues and problems with speech impediments. They’ve overcome these through music and the lyrics in their songs.”


The team had several members who had experience of speech and sound disorders, providing a more personal perspective on the project, which took two years to complete.

Researchers initially decided to create eight playlists, using an algorithm that helped identify songs with repetition of certain syllables and sounds. The group worked with speech and language therapist Anna Biavati-Smith on the project.

The team wanted to get access to more lyrics and more songs, which led to the partnership with Warner Music and, from there, Apple Music. The streaming service provides lyrics for many of the songs on its service, which was necessary to the Rothco team to ensure that the songs being chosen for the playlists fit the rules laid down in terms of frequency and proximity.

The algorithm was then applied to Apple Music’s catalogue of 70 million tracks. A final 173 songs were chosen by Warner Music for the playlists.

The plan is to build further on the initial playlists, with the Rothco team welcoming feedback from users.

The playlists are exclusive to Apple Music and available to all subscribers.

"When Warner Music Ireland and Rothco came to us with this idea, everyone at Warner Music got fully behind it. We believe utterly in the power of music and its ability to change people's lives for the better. Helping people express themselves is at the heart of what we do, and we hope that by creating a therapeutic tool that's as engaging and accessible as Saylists, we can help anyone who's struggling with their speech," said Tony Harlow, chief executive of Warner Music UK.

More than 10 per cent of children in Ireland have speech issues, with waiting lists for speech and language therapy topping 45,000.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist