How AI Is Transforming the Music Industry
New developments in neural networks and machine learning are changing the future of music.
As technology advances, we’re seeing breakthrough developments that go on to impact everyday life with greater frequency.
Everyday activities like how we shop, manage our money and communicate with each other are being affected by major technological shifts – and entertainment is no different.
When people think about Artificial Intelligence (AI) they often imagine robots performing human tasks, but the reality is much more complex. Most software developed today is designed for AI programs to run, not humans; like TabNine which is a code completion software that assists AI. Let’s wrap our heads around that for a second.
In a matter of decades we have gone from creating the first AI program to developing artificial neural networks that are modeled on human brains.
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Though AI still has a long way to go before matching the capacity of the human brain – which contains around 86 billion neurons compared to a normal AI neural network which has around 1000 to 10,000 “artificial” neurons – it is already having a huge impact.
This has led to a hyper-acceleration of processing power, making it possible to analyze and process enormous volumes of data at the click of a button.
This new standard is changing human society as we know it and has significant implications for the world of entertainment.
Many artists, record labels and entertainment platforms are asking the same question: How will this tech evolution affect the music industry and how to best prepare for it?
Here are some important points for creators to consider as we venture into a more digitally automated future:
In recent years machine learning has produced new capabilities that allow programs to carry out a multitude of intricate tasks. This technology has been used to create high quality content for businesses and individuals that can be considered “original”.
For instance, AIVA is one of the most renowned AI programs that can be used to compose original music. The user selects a preset style and then a number of parameters like time signature, key, instrumentation, etc., to create a customized track.
While reading thousands of musical pieces by iconic composers such as Bach and Mozart, AIVA can break down all the stored complex audio information into specific qualities, which can then be reinterpreted and applied to create a totally new piece of music.
In some cases, AI-generated music may sound incredibly human, but in others it may appear generic or low quality depending on the algorithm being used.
Artificially generated music is often used for video games, soundtracks and other forms of background music. Nevertheless, there are some pop songs that have also been generated by AI.
AI As a Creative Tool
AI is capable of independently generating music from the data it receives through deep learning processes that functionally resemble those of the human brain. But how can it be used as a tool to aid artistic creativity?
Artists are often searching for inspiration – which can sometimes be hard to come by. Whether it is a musical idea, lyrical content or a general concept, AI can provide insights that we may not normally perceive by ourselves.
Take Grammy-nominated producer Alex da Kid, for example. In 2016 he used IBM’s question answering software, Watson, to analyze five years of hit songs and cultural data from a variety of popular media sources. He then used those insights to create a successful pop song.
Using all the collected sonic and lyrical data, Alex da Kid selected what he saw as the most relatable and powerful emotional characteristics he found to compose his piece. The final song, “Not Easy” went viral shortly after its release.
As this happened 5 years ago, there is no doubt that major labels and artists are now increasingly using such technology to better understand their markets – and how to effectively deliver desirable content.
Surely it can be argued that using such technology to create art may be “cheating”, but there is often a fine line between genuine creation, innovation and plagiarism.
Fictional artists like Alvin and the Chipmunks have been delighting audiences since as far back as the 1950s. It is no surprise that with today’s technology we will see the increasing popularity of virtual artists.
Characters like Hatsune Miku – a virtual persona who uses a computer-generated voice and 3D graphics to perform on stage – are likely to become a staple in the entertainment industry in the near future.
Virtual artists are not only performers but social media influencers. Miquela, who was first created for an Instagram profile, has now risen to be a pop star in the virtual world.
As more people make their way into the Metaverse for business and entertainment, we will see an explosion of virtual reality and customized avatars.
This cultural shift will call for more AI-powered virtual personas and entertainment which will remodel the music industry and ultimately modern society as we know it.
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For several years now, Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) like Logic and Ableton Live have been equipping musicians and producers with the tools to create music.
Many of these programs use AI to develop and operate Virtual Studio Technology (VST) plugins, which are an essential tool in DAWs.
Some of these are used for synthesis and audio mixing but the most popular application of AI is found in mastering, which is normally the final process of audio production.
Professional mastering can be very expensive as it traditionally requires expertise and pricey equipment. But with the implementation of AI, this analog treatment can be digitally simulated to achieve impressive results.
This is a great solution for aspiring producers and artists that do not have the budget to hire a professional mastering engineer. Leaders in AI mastering like LANDR have provided their services to master millions of songs to date.
Rights and Publishing
Who owns the rights to AI-generated music? How do we distinguish purely AI-generated music from AI-assisted music and what does that mean for publishing rights?
These questions are becoming more common with the development of machine learning in the music industry. We are also likely to see many legal changes that will emerge from the era of computer-generated music.
While it is currently legal to use AI-generated music to create your own music, if the AI-generated music is based on copyrighted music there is technically a legal grey area that has yet to be clearly defined.
Taryn Southern’s album, “I Am AI”, was produced with the assistance of AI generated music. This makes an interesting case study on the subject and gives hints as to what challenges may arise in the future of copyrights and AI.
One of the things that defines us as humans is our natural inclination to express ourselves creatively. Integrating AI into our creative process raises questions about artistic integrity, authenticity and value which will be the subject of arguments and discussion for years to come.
Machine learning is giving way to a new frontier. In order to keep up with these changes and make the best of our evolving technological landscape, artists and other creators will need to navigate complex questions of what technology is – and what makes us human.
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