Culture Friday, May 31, 2024

AI Has Come For Music Too

Source: Techopedia

The year is 2034, and the 76th Annual Grammy Awards is being held at the Eko Convention Center in Lagos, Nigeria. Everyone is dressed to kill as bright red strobe lights bounce off the walls revealing faces yearning to hear the next category. A deafening silence envelops the crowd, but little murmurs can still be heard. 

“And the Grammy for the best Afrobeats song goes to … Rema XV8!”

Instead of seeing the Rave Lorde saunter to the stage in pomp and pageantry with bats hovering around his head, a little AI singing machine walks gingerly forward.

Imagination time is over guys, snap back to reality! 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has found its way into music, just like it has in other industries. I take it that you’ve heard about Chat GPT. AI is the new normal, but does that make it a good thing?

How AI is Used in the Music Industry

Source: Medium

The entry of AI into the music industry has changed how music is created, distributed, and consumed. With more evolution in technology, AI has taken a deep dive into the pool of creativity. It is now at the forefront of music, a cultural and economic behemoth that is integral to pop culture. These are the ways it is used in the industry:

AI in Music Production

Usually, it takes immense technical skill to produce and arrange music. But today, with the innovative tendencies of AI, it is arguably a stroll in the park.

Composition and Songwriting

AI algorithms — like those developed by companies like Amper Music — use data from existing music to create new songs. These tools enable users, irrespective of their musical expertise, to compose music. They do this by selecting specific parameters like tempo, style, and instrumentation. With AI, you don’t just get to imitate current music styles, but you can also formulate new ones. How flattering.

Audio Engineering and Mastering

AI is also changing how audio recordings are adjusted for the final product. With tools like Landr, you can analyze and immediately master songs. Also, you can utilize data to adapt the sound to specific preferences. This makes the audio engineering process much faster and reduces costs for indie artists, whilst ensuring arguably studio-quality sound.

AI in Music Consumption

Today, there is more emphasis on how music is consumed than ever. It is not enough to just listen to music. The “how” is equally as important. Digital Streaming Platforms (DSPs) like Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube Music now go over and beyond to curate personalized experiences for their audience by using AI.

Music Recommendations

AI algorithms examine user listening patterns to suggest new songs, albums, and artists. Your listening habits, such as the day, time, duration, and type of music are monitored. From the data obtained, recommendations are made for your personal use. This fosters user engagement and satisfaction which is positive for brand awareness.

Voice-Activated Assistants 

Smart devices like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant utilize AI to offer voice-activated music services. By way of voice commands, you can search for songs, check their lyrics, regulate playback or shuffle, and organize your music libraries. This makes it convenient and accessible to consume music.

AI in Music Marketing

Music marketing has been transformed since the turn of the century. With social media, streaming platforms, and now AI, artists, and executives can now understand and access their audiences better. That is why, Spotify for example, does the year-end “Spotify Wrapped” feature.

Audience Targeting

AI helps to analyze data to determine possible new listeners based on their similarities to current fans. For example, age, location, gender, nationality, etc. This direct and targeted approach helps in creating more personalized marketing strategies, which can convert listeners into fans.

Content Optimization

Content is king and when it is optimized effectively, it can drive sales in music. Thus, AI, with the aid of data, helps to figure out the best time and platform for releasing certain music content. It can then customize marketing efforts around such content enhancing its productivity.

Real-Time Data Analytics

Data helps artists and their teams know the effectiveness of their music within a certain location or platform. AI tools provide real-time feedback on this and the instant data collection enables artists and labels to modify their strategies to maximize impact.

Has Afrobeats Embraced AI?

As an industry, we have yet to fully tap into AI’s premium benefits. A lack of technical know-how, funding, or apathy? The possible reasons are numerous. So far, we’ve only had one instance where AI was used in Afrobeats.


After dropping the smash hit “Jaga Jaga,” Victony announced a cover competition with a cash prize. The Outlaw King then went on to pen four different lyrics and used AI to deliver them in the voices of Nigerian singers Burna Boy and Tems and also for British rappers Central Cee and Dave.

It was a show of brilliance, both on Victony’s part and the utility of AI. But it could have also had legal implications, had any of the other four artists decided to sue. He dropped not one, but four original versions of the song. Then again, is it original if it is in other people’s voices? I’ll leave you to judge.

The Impact of AI Internationally

Unsurprisingly, our international counterparts have been busier with AI. There have been a couple of high-profile cases surrounding the use of AI. Let us consider some of them:

Heart on My Sleeve

@Drake AI – ‘Heart on my sleeve’ (Ft. The Weeknd AI)

A random person with the pseudonym “ghostwriter” (quite apt) released a song called “Heart on My Sleeve” which caused controversy online. The song was alleged to have used AI to replicate the voices of Drake and The Weeknd. It went viral everywhere on social media before it was taken down as a result of intellectual property concerns by Universal Music Group – the label of the two artists.

Stem Separation

The legendary Paul McCartney used AI to retrieve the vocals of the late John Lennon to create ‘the final’ Beatles song. This was obtained via a process called “Stem Separation” which involves isolating and separating layers in an audio track. They explained that AI would separate Lennon’s vocals from the background sound and instruments, and would not necessarily ‘create’ a new song. The 18-time Grammy winner further explained their stance on social media after there was some confusion from the public.

Taylor Made Freestyle

@Drake – Taylor Made Freestyle

This time around Drake was in the driving seat of AI controversy. The Toronto icon used AI to conjure the voices of two West Coast legends; the late 2Pac and Snoop Dogg. He used it to make a diss song called “Taylor Made Freestyle” aimed at fellow West Coast legend Kendrick Lamar in their highly publicized feud. The estate of 2Pac didn’t take kindly to this and they published a cease-and-desist letter to the “Views” crooner.

Is AI Good for the Industry?

The potential benefits of AI for the music industry have been outlined. Yet, does it mean that it is a thoroughly positive addition to the game? Not exactly, as it poses some challenges for creatives, executives, and audiences.

Copyright Issues

Record labels like Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group have spoken out against the use of AI in replicating their artists’ songs. They sent letters to music streaming platforms requesting they prevent the uploading of AI versions of their artists’ music. The former said, “We expect our platform partners will want to prevent their services from being used in ways that harm artists.”

Lack of Depth

Some critics of AI have also mentioned that it lacks the emotional and creative intuition that breathes life into music. In truth, AI has so far been used to solely generate content from existing data, without technically creating material from scratch. 

What is the Way Forward?

AI is not just a trend that will die down within weeks after monopolizing everyone’s attention. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Rather, it is a transformative technology that is redefining how music is made, distributed, marketed, and consumed. It enables music to be made more simply and cheaply, reduces the barrier to entry, and improves the fan experience.

But the grass is not all green on that side, it has its downsides. First, it could lead to unemployment in the industry for executives as it can handle numerous duties from composing to marketing. Also, it could pose copyright issues for artists and their labels who would not sit and watch as their intellectual rights are trampled upon. Then, for the audience, many might not jump on the AI bandwagon as they may crave a more human-centric approach to music creation.

Ultimately, the influence of AI would arguably grow in the industry as it comes with numerous benefits, with efficiency high on the list. However, on certain levels, it is still no match for the emotional approach humans bring to music. Thus, the best bet is for stakeholders to create an environment where AI and humans can co-exist. This would facilitate a symbiotic relationship for both parties and lead to advancement on the frontiers of music. 

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