In recent months, AI generated tracks have become increasingly popular, prompting action from music publishers such as UMG. How far might this go? Impact‘s Loretta Omoruanzoje explores.
AI generated covers such as Kanye West singing Hey There Delilah by the Plain White T’s have been able to attract hundreds of thousands of viewers. Not only has AI been able to cover existing music but also to write, produce and record new songs.
In April, a user called Ghostwriter released a song called Heart on my Sleeve and with the help of AI they were able to feature vocals from both Drake and The Weeknd. This sent shockwaves through the music industry, because for the first-time members of the public have access to the technology needed to recreate and profit off the likeness of musicians.
This did not sit well with the Universal Music Group (UMG) which represents both Drake and The Weeknd. When Heart on My Sleeve was released, UMG worked hard to get it removed from all platforms. But by the time they were able to remove the song, it had already been played over a million times on TikTok, YouTube and Spotify. Since the dawn of AI in the music industry, UMG has been working tirelessly to “protect [their] rights and those of [their] artists”. The firm has been working alongside streaming services to block those wanting to train AI technologies from accessing their music catalogues.
AI-generated music can be viewed as a digital tribute act
Already AI has produced a number of legal challenges for artists and record labels. It is new and unchartered territory and at the moment we do not have the legislation necessary to regulate the use of AI in the music industry. It will be interesting to see where the line will be drawn when it comes to copyright infringements.
In some ways, AI-generated music can be viewed as a digital tribute act. For years fans have been allowed to perform in the style of their favourite artists and even going as far as trying to look like them. As technology advances fans without any musical talents may still also be able to pay tribute to their favourite musicians. If tribute acts are allowed to make a profit by trying to mimic the likeness of their favourite musicians, what is to stop those who create AI-generated music from doing the same?
However, not all artists have been opposed to the use of AI. In a series of tweets last month, Grimes said that she would split the royalties with anyone who is able to create a successful AI-generated song which features her voice. Grimes also welcomes the idea of being “fused [with] a machine”. This move could have the potential to open up the doors of the music industry to those who may not have had the opportunity before the introduction of artificial intelligence.
Although eager to have her name attached to AI projects, Grimes also points out that her team will work to take down songs which feature offensive lyrics. It is already quite hard now to differentiate between the originals and deepfakes and AI-generated music poses a new threat to the reputation of artists. Musicians are already under the immense pressure of public opinion and AI-generated songs perceived to be real could cause them to fall victim to cancel culture.
AI brings new possibilities for the music industry both in a legal and creative aspect
Artist Holly Herndon has been experimenting with AI as early as 2019. Her album ‘Proto’, released in 2019, featured AI-generated vocals of herself. Since then she has developed Holly+ – an AI-driven instrument which allows people to sing in her voice, which is only accessible to an approved list of artists. In a creative sense, AI can lead to not only new modes of experimentation but also collaborations. Software such as Holly+ allow people to incorporate AI into their music and collaborate with other artists whilst still maintaining their agency.
AI brings new possibilities for the music industry both in a legal and creative aspect. Moves from firms such as UMG could mean the end of AI-generated music from the public, but that does not mean that the music industry will do away with AI altogether.
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