Music Industry Contends with Artificial Intelligence Disruption

There’s been a lot of noise recently about music generated by artificial intelligence tools. The clamor is on multiple fronts: generative mimicry of specific artists’ vocal styles, the potential to put Muzak-style background tunesmiths out of business with potentially cheaper alternatives, and the particulars of takedown orders. The matter came to a head this month after generative AI vocals prompted to sound like Drake and The Weeknd performed a song called “Heart on My Sleeve,” written and produced by a TikTok user. The tune quickly went viral, raising numerous concerns.

And it wasn’t the first. A rap about cats credited to “Eminem ft. ChatGPT” also caused a sensation. “AI-generated fake ‘Drake’/’Weeknd’ collaboration, ‘Heart on My Sleeve,’ delights fans and sets off industry alarm bells,” was Variety’s take.

Universal Music Group did eventually have “Heart” removed from TikTok, but not before it racked up 9 million views. Like whack-a-mole, the AI tunes keep coming back.

Labels are concerned as to whether fans — never mind the public at large — will have a hard time telling the difference between artists and copycats. “AI-generated music is about to flood streaming platforms,” predicts Wired, adding it will be “competing with real people and their compositions for the attention of your ears.”

After “Heart” went viral on TikTok, “a full version was released on music streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify, and on YouTube,” writes The Verge, which says the exposure led to “a sternly-worded statement” from UMG SVP communications James Murtagh-Hopkins that ultimately took the position that using generative AI in this way violates copyright law.

“The training of generative AI using our artists’ music (which represents both a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law) as well as the availability of infringing content created with generative AI on DSPs, begs the question as to which side of history all stakeholders in the music ecosystem want to be on: the side of artists, fans and human creative expression, or on the side of deepfakes, fraud and denying artists their due compensation,” said Murtagh-Hopkins.

The media outlet then goes on to analyze a tangled legal picture with musicians arguing the same position visual artists are litigating: uncompensated model training.

AI’s musical disruption is being compared to the advent of Napster by those who want it stamped out and likened to sampling by others who say it’s a force to be harnessed.

“Whether superstars could have their pockets picked, or become altogether obsolete in favor of machines that can imitate them, is only one side of the equation. Royalty-free music generators can be used now to compose a rap beat, a commercial jingle or a film score, cutting into an already fragile economy for working musicians,” The New York Times reports.

Universal Music Group Calls AI Music a ‘Fraud,’ Wants It Banned from Streaming Platforms, CNN, 4/18/23
A New Drake x The Weeknd Track Just Blew Up – but It’s an AI Fake, TechCrunch, 4/17/23
AI Copyright in Spotlight After Platforms Pull “Fake Drake” Song, Axios, 4/19/23
The Fake Drake AI Song Earned Millions of Streams – But Will Anyone Get Paid?, Billboard, 4/19/23
Grimes Tells Fans to Deepfake Her Music, Will Split 50% Royalties with AI, Forbes, 4/24/23

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