For some, the topic of “artificial intelligence” conjures up chromatic visions of a revolutionary utopia reinforced by autonomous machines. Everyone else, well, if you have watched any of the Terminator movies, you likely have an idea.
Technology has continuously played a role in the evolution of music and the music world as a whole, but as AI-generated music gains momentum, it makes one wonder:
Are human musicians at stake of becoming unnecessary if AI technology can produce and compose music independently?
The Birth of AI
Before we go off on a rant about the end of creative expression as we know it, I would like to point out that the usage of AI in the music scene is not new.
Nowadays, artificial intelligence powers nearly all of our engagement with digital music. Music streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube can use AI to maximize a user’s listening experience by analyzing their location, keyword searches, playlist data, and song choices.
But, perhaps more surprisingly, computer-generated sounds have existed for generations. Alan Turing, the computer science godfather, created a machine in 1951 that produced three basic melodies. David Bowie sought inspiration by experimenting with a digital lyric randomizer in the 1990s. Simultaneously, a music theory professor developed a computer program to invent new compositions in the style of Bach; when listeners heard its work next to an authentic Bach piece, they could not tell the difference.
What Are The AI Tools Out There?
Artificial intelligence is significantly advancing in almost every aspect of our digital lives. With tools like ChatGPT, you can now discover AI solutions for generating text, producing magnificent art, and solving various problems.
Music was an outlier in terms of what AI could create until now. But with Google’s recent announcement of MusicLM, an AI tool for creating music, a future in which artificial intelligence fully creates hits songs is a real possibility.
MusicLM is a massive language model trained specifically on music data to generate music from a text command. It’s similar to ChatGPT, but it generates music.
Interestingly, unlike tools like ChatGPT, Google’s MusicLM does not rely solely on text inputs. Based on a Google research document, the prototype can also convert whistling and humming into music—a truly outstanding capability.
Will AI Put an End to Human Touch in Music?
Many musicians believe that the arrival of AI will not end human creations but rather herald the beginning of a golden age of creativity. In recent years, several notable artists, including Arca, Holly Herndon, and Toro y Moi, have collaborated with AI to move their music in new and unforeseen directions. Meanwhile, a slew of musicians and researchers worldwide are working to make artificial intelligence more accessible to artists everywhere. While challenges like copyright issues and other roadblocks remain, musicians working with AI wish that the platform will become a liberalizing strength and an essential component of everyday musical creation.
David Guetta recently backed up this notion by stating that “the future of music is in AI,” after using the technology to add a vocal that sounds a lot like Eminem to his latest song. In a video posted in early February, he said he made the Eminem-style vocal “as a joke,” and yet it worked so well, he couldn’t believe it. As for how fans responded to it, well, they went crazy!
The Emotional Connection
The power of an artist to connect to their audience on an emotional level is a crucial component of their songs. This is naturally the strongest argument against artificial intelligence music. “What defines an artist is you have a certain taste,” David Guetta added. “You have a certain type of emotion you want to express. And you’re going to use all the modern instruments to do that.”
Another emotional objection to AI music is its failure to replicate historical, cultural, or societal values. Music is often a tribute to the era, and if artificial intelligence has never existed through a particular time, it is unlikely to be able to communicate with those who have.
On one end of the spectrum, AI music has evolved into a simple answer to a simple demand: more music is necessary than ever before, owing to the unprecedented growth of content creators on streaming and social media platforms.