How AI is changing the music industry for better and worse

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It seems like AI is expanding in just about every field at the moment. Whether it’s an AI that measures how long politicians spend on their phones, or an AI that automatically builds code, technology is changing the very fabric of society. One field where AI has really exploded in recent years is the music industry.

For better and worse, AI is changing the way musicians create music, how we consume it and even how license holders police copyright claims. 

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For many, AI caters every aspect of our day-to-day music listening on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. All three utilise AI tech to recommend songs and artists based on our previous listening. That’s just one of the subtle ways AI affects our music consumption. 

There are some less positive uses for AI in the music industry. The most notable of which are YouTube’s and Twitch’s AI copyright technology that automatically detects music on stream and in videos. There’s a whole host of reasons why the AI tech isn’t well-liked.

Changing sounds

It isn’t all doom and gloom, though, as AI is being used in creative ways to enrich the listening experience. The Eternal Jukebox allows users to create an infinite loop of a specific song, generating a never-ending, always-changing edition. It’s a fantastic way to refresh your favourite songs, or create an endless soundtrack for a study or work session.

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The Eternal Jukebox works by using a Spotify API to break down songs into individual beats. The AI then arranges each beat based on pitch, timbre, loudness, duration, and beat position. It works all of this into a nifty visualisation that shows how it works. It’s a clever bit of AI that has uses beyond simply extending songs within a browser. 

It isn’t just developers who are using AI to change music, artists are also taking advantage of technology. Icelandic composer and musician Ólafur Arnalds created an AI driven software that plays notes on two adjacent pianos through a controlling synth. The software generates notes based on what Ólafur is playing, creating melodies and tempos based on his input. 

It’s a clever piece of technology that the musician built alongside a friend. Rather than taking away from his craft, AI is empowering the musician to create new and unique works of art that wouldn’t have been possible without the technology. Well, unless he got two adjacent piano players who could transpose everything he plays in real time. 

rig tour: ólafur arnalds' live setup and the tech behind the stratus pianos  | musicradar
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Corporate Use

There are downsides to introducing AI in the music industry. One of the most prevalent is the use of AI in hunting copyright material on platforms like YouTube. As a musician and as a member of a band, I understand the importance of protecting intellectual property. The problem with AI is that there is no nuance and assumes anyone using copyrighted material is trying to steal it. AI doesn’t recognise fair use. 

Cover bands and artists are a major part of the music industry. Unsurprisingly, most musicians get their first start by playing covers. There’s a whole community of people on YouTube who post music covers for others to critique and listen to. These artists have no intention of claiming the artist’s work as their own. Unfortunuately, AI doesn’t recognise content of this nature. Subsequently, it either forces adverts on it, or worse, removes it completely. There’s a whole new generation of musicians who could be put off by overly aggressive copyright enforcement through AI.

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Interestingly, there’s also an argument that platforms like Spotify and Apple music actually limit our listening range as users. The curated daily playlists on both apps typically recommend music you like or music it thinks you might like. In a world with thousands of cultures and hundreds of potential genres, it’s easy to stay inside your comfort zone. This has knock-on effects on smaller artists who might not meet the cut for recommended playlists on streaming platforms. 

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The Good, The Bad and the AI

Much like any other industry, AI is a force for good and bad. It has plenty of potential to change the way we create, consume and interact with music in the future. However, AI is used to limit our interaction with music. As companies increasingly rely on AI to monitor copyrighted material, it could be difficult for up-and-coming artists to cover, remix, or pay homage to their favourite artists. 

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It’s important to remember that AI is a tool. Ultimately, it’s the intentions behind the users that are questionable. It’s just a shame that corporations in the music industry don’t have the best track record...

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