The Rise of AI-Generated Music: A Threat to the Music Industry?

Have you heard about the new artist in town named Ghostwriter? Neither had we until a few days ago when their song titled “Heart on My Sleeve” featuring the voices of Drake and The Weeknd went viral on TikTok and Spotify, amassing an impressive 250,000 streams and 10 million views. The catch? The song was created entirely by an AI model, and the real Drake and The Weeknd had no involvement in its production.

ai generated music artis ghostwriter
Screengrab: SPOTIFY

While it may be tempting to experiment with your favorite music and styles using available AI tools, not everyone is thrilled with the rise of deepfake songs. Universal Music Group (UMG), which controls around 1/3 of the global music market, recently had a song pulled on infringement grounds. Drake himself expressed his frustration with AI-generated music on Instagram, writing, “This is the final straw AI.” It’s unclear whether he was joking or not, but either way, he’s not alone in his concerns.

Other major artists like Jay-Z and Eminem have also had run-ins with AI-generated deepfakes of their music. In response, UMG has asked streaming services to prevent AI companies from using their music to train their models. As a UMG representative put it, the rise of AI-generated music “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 deep fakes, fraud and denying artists their due compensation.”

screenshot of ai generated Drake song
Screengrabs: TIKTOK / @GHOSTWRITER977

It’s a thorny issue, to be sure. Copyright law doesn’t yet have specific guidelines regarding generative AI, and while transformative parody is permissible, what makes a work “transformative” is open to interpretation. Plus, once any kind of artistic work is part of a dataset, it can be hard to remove it.

That’s where Spawning AI comes in. Founded by technologists Mat Dryhurst and Holly Herndon, one of their projects, “Have I Been Trained,” allows users to search for their artwork and see if it has been incorporated into an AI training set without their consent.

Of course, not everyone may be so lucky. As artist Greg Rutkowski discovered, once your artwork is out there, it may be impossible to regain control over it. In the case of Ghostwriter’s fake Drake and The Weeknd song, it remains on Spotify for now, but who knows how long it will be there.

So what’s the takeaway from all this? Maybe it’s that we should appreciate human creativity while we still can. After all, as impressive as AI-generated music may be, it still can’t match the unique quirks and nuances of human expression. Plus, we’d all miss out on Drake’s killer dance moves if he was just a figment of an AI model’s imagination.

⚡Update: Right after publishing this article, a new AI-generated Drake song was released called “Winters Cold.” It appears that the trend of AI-generated music is not slowing down anytime soon, and with more and more people publishing their versions of well-known artists’ music, it may be challenging for copyright holders to keep up. Even UMG, which managed to almost erase the first AI song from internet, may find it more challenging to do so in the future.

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