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AI and the Music Industry

It’s a question being asked in every industry at the moment – how does AI change things? The rise of generative AI, algorithms which are fed sets of data to generate output that is meant to look of a piece with what it was trained on, is an inescapable topic. The music industry is no exception to that.

Below, we’ll explore the positive and negative effects that AI technology is already having on the music industry – and those which it might have in the future.

How does AI help the music industry?

Machine learning doesn’t necessarily mean just the generation of new output, though that is the most commonly familiar use of so-called AI in today’s discussions. The music industry is already benefiting from stem separation, the use of AI tools to identify and isolate individual instruments and voices from within a full track of audio. This is the technology that enabled 2023’s release of Now and Then, the “final” song from the Beatles that was only able to see the light of the day because of an AI tool that could clear up a recording of John Lennon’s voice.

Such applications will likely continue to find favour in the future, as a way of fine-tuning specific elements of a song during production that might not otherwise have been possible.

There is also a place for generative AI to play a role, according to some creatives. British indie-pop outfit Everything Everything used a custom AI model to generate a small amount of lyrics and serve as a point of inspiration for others for their 2022 album Raw Data Feel, as part of the record’s thematic reckoning with modern technology.

How is it harming the industry?

The worry that AI tools might be used to take jobs away from humans – by taking over tasks that might previously have required human input – certainly extends to the music industry, although the fact that it is a creative field only throws more of a wrench into the complications posed by AI.

Generative AI is already being used to recreate artists’ voices and instrumental performances without their involvement or consent, and some of these plagiarised outputs – from bots like ‘Fake Drake’ – have already found viral success. It brings into question artists’ ability to protect their work, reputations and incomes.

It’s important to understand that the average musician does not make global-pop-star money. Working musicians must factor in considerations like public liability insurance and equipment expenses to their budgets and many are required to work second jobs to make ends meet.

The upside of AI, quickly and easily automating tasks that might otherwise have been laborious for humans, can be an asset to those musicians. The big risk is that less creative figures in the industry, looking at the bottom line, decide to lean more into the generation of instrumentals and vocals alike, seeking to cut out creatives as much as possible. How the field of music reacts to such threats is yet to be seen.