How Will the Music Industry Respond to AI Ripping Off Songs?

The ability of programs like ChatGPT to write and make art is not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good.

Many creatives (including me) are understandably nervous about the rapid growth of generative AI. The ability of programs like ChatGPT to write and make art is not perfect, but it’s pretty damn good. And now, I recently read about a big firestorm of controversy about AI ripping off major musicians.

Recently, three megastars (Drake, Rhianna, and The Weeknd) had their vocals replicated by artificial intelligence tools and then “performed.” The songs quickly went viral online. Of course, these weren’t actual songs by these artists – they are mere copycats that sound pretty damn similar to the artists’ voices.

I showed the brief clip of the Rhianna fake AI song to my wife (who is more of a fan of hers), and she said it doesn’t sound much like her. On Twitter, tons of commenters made the same point. To a casual fan of hers like me, though, it sounded a little uncanny and damn close to her vocal style.

Another AI-replicated vocal that’s causing noise is called Heart on My Sleeve. It’s an “original composition” by an “artist” named ghostwriter that features AI-generated vocals in the style of Drake featuring The Weeknd.

What’s so alarming about this track is that it was successfully distributed on several music streaming services, including Spotify and Apple Music. On Spotify, the track had more than 250,000 plays at one point. A commenter on the YouTube video (which has over 150,000 plays) said it best: “This is just the beginning.” The company responsible for distributing the Heart on My Sleeve song is unknown, but that may not even matter.

These are just a few examples of how people are “creating” songs that rip off prominent music artists with the help of AI. Now, I could care less about the music of artists like Drake or Rhianna – this is a psych-rock which focuses mainly on indie musicians and bands.

What interests me is how it will affect the increasingly strange online music ecosystem. Streaming services like Spotify have already made the industry kind of weird. And now, with AI, who’s to say music “created” by random people with a few AI software tools won’t be more listened to than stuff actually crafted by legitimate musicians?

Technology has already changed the music industry significantly. Nearly anyone can go on SoundCloud and create something with simple samples and loops, and computer effects. Some of this bedroom music is quite good, but a lot is awful. So, there’s a ton of noise out there we’re drowning in.

What interests me in this whole thing is how it will affect the types of bands we cover here on The Third Eye. People will always want to listen to music actually created by humans. But maybe we’re just telling ourselves that to make us feel better. If AI music catches on and people think it’s good, will it replace us?

Or is the threat of AI to musicians and writers like myself overhyped? I honestly don’t know. But if you listen to enough of these AI-generated rip-offs of Drake and Rhianna, it’s bound to make you think a big shock may be coming.

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