The landscape of the music industry is continually evolving, with various technological innovations taking center stage in recent years. From NFTs to Web3 technology, the industry has witnessed transformative trends, but in 2023, it’s artificial intelligence (AI) that is stealing the spotlight. 

Warner Music CEO Robert Kyncl believes that AI will play a significant role in the music industry in the coming year. He emphasizes the need to embrace this technology and adapt to its presence. Kyncl highlights the importance of affording AI-generated content the same protections as traditional copyright, although he acknowledges that this process will take time.

Legal complexities of AI-generated music

The legality of using AI to mimic artists’ voices in music has become a pressing concern. A YouTuber recently released a song using AI-generated imitations of Drake and The Weeknd’s voices, sparking a debate within the music industry. Musicians fear unauthorized cloning of their voices and are actively seeking legal remedies to address this issue.

The emergence of startups like YourArtist·AI, which offers voice bots imitating real stars like Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars, adds to the complexity of this matter. Users can engage with these bots, and for a fee, the bots will sing songs in the voice of the chosen artist, raising questions about the potential misuse of such technology.

AI in streaming music platforms

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek’s stance on AI-generated music is nuanced. While he does not intend to ban AI-made music, he emphasizes the importance of obtaining artists’ consent before using AI to impersonate them. However, monitoring and regulating AI-generated content remain challenging.

AI-generated music has already made its way onto streaming platforms, with Spotify’s algorithm serving up such content. While these AI-generated tracks may lack artistic merit, their affordability and ease of production make them financially appealing to some.

Accessibility of AI music tools

The accessibility of AI music generation tools is expanding rapidly. Text-to-music programs now allow users to describe the music they want, and the AI generates it almost instantly. Innovations like Humbeatz even transform users’ voices into musical instruments, democratizing music creation.

Furthermore, ongoing research at the University of California suggests that soon, individuals might be able to generate music simply by thinking about it.

Challenges in identifying AI-generated music

Identifying AI-generated music poses a growing challenge. Music critic Ted Gioia has encountered AI-generated jazz that lacks artistic quality but is commercially viable due to its cost-effectiveness. This trend suggests that listeners may unknowingly consume AI-generated music.

A music chart dedicated to AI-generated songs, known as “AI Hits,” has emerged, indicating the increasing presence of AI in music creation.

Major awards shows like the Junos and the Grammys have taken a stance against AI-generated music by declaring it ineligible for nominations. The challenge lies in distinguishing between music created by humans and that produced by machines, as AI continues to improve.

The emergence of a new genre: “Syn”

A proposed genre classification, “Syn” (short for “Synergetic”), is being discussed as a way to categorize music resulting from AI-driven creative explorations. However, the demand for AI-generated music remains uncertain, with limited enthusiasm among music enthusiasts.

The introduction of AI-generated artists has yielded mixed results. Capitol Records’ experiment with “FN Meka,” an AI-generated rapper, faced backlash for perpetuating stereotypes and was discontinued after just ten days. Similarly, Warner Music’s “Noonoouri,” an AI pop star, raised concerns about sexualized imagery and representation.

Japan’s fascination with AI pop idols

Japan has embraced AI pop idols for several years, with notable examples like Hatsune Miku and Kizuna AI. Hatsune Miku, a holographic performer created in 2007, has gained immense popularity, with thousands of songs created by her fans. Kizuna AI, who emerged in 2016, went on an indefinite hiatus in 2022, reflecting the evolving nature of AI-generated music.

As the music industry grapples with the growing influence of artificial intelligence, it faces both exciting opportunities and complex challenges. While AI-driven music creation tools become more accessible, the legal and ethical implications of AI-generated content remain unresolved. The distinction between human and AI-made music blurs, prompting discussions on new genre classifications and award eligibility criteria. The future of music lies at the intersection of technology and creativity, and it’s a journey filled with both promise and uncertainty.