Are AI-generated music phenomenons threatening real artists?

By Federica Purcaro

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We are living through what can easily be described as the AI revolution. A new technological wave of invention, of bending the realms of computing science to our most profound and properest form of inventiveness, but how far are we humans willing to take it?

AI is becoming more accessible to us, whether through social media or websites, but it is also slowly seeping through our everyday lives in our workplace, entertainment and even through our music. 

Recent discussions of how much AI-generated technologies impact our daily lives have seen the music industry being the centre stage of such dialogues. Everything started when Warner Music Group, the global music entertainment company that sees names such as Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Fleetwood Mac, Bruno Mars, Jay-z and many more, recently signed a record deal with Noonouri, the first AI-generated popstar. 

For those unfamiliar with Noonoouri let me give you a little rundown of who we are talking about. She is better known as an “AI influencer” created by German artist Joerg Zuber, who believe it or not,  collaborated with brands such as Dior, Vogue and Valentino alongside being “politically active” and “socially present”. She has an Instagram following of 407K and recently launched her first single under Warner Music. 

This might sound like your typical influencer having an identity crisis and deciding to enter the music world in the hope of becoming the next viral sensation. The issue here is that we are talking of a digitally generated figure signing with a music company and being promoted and advertised in the “new artists to watch” categories. It is all fun and games until resources and attention are diverted to these technologically enhanced programs and not to real artists who are putting their time and energy into creating long-lasting and genuine musical content. 

Are we about to enter a reality where real artists must watch their backs from their own companies, driven by an insatiable hunger for more profit?

To be able to have a complete picture of how dangerous this can be for artists, we have to understand where the catch lies for Warner in profiting off this situation. Imagine being able to create a pop star with no flaws, with no breaks in their career, with no creative voice in the direction of their management, with no need to listen to what they have to say and to be able to produce, promote and profit without a single worry. A true dystopian and eerie narrative. 

A socially and politically adept singer, dominating reality, captivating masses and communications, all while the higher-ups profit off without being challenged. 

What about the artists? What about all their creative and emotional intelligence being swapped for a digital one? Artists need to start looking after their art. 

They ought to protect themselves before they become non-profitable assets before music loses its voice. 

The same situation relates to the thousands of producers, writers and composers who might not agree with deploying their energy into a computer project. 

Is giving their creative time and thoughts to a digitally enhanced entity the future of their hopes and dreams? 

We have just witnessed how companies such as Warner are willing to take on projects like  Noonoouri, something eerily similar to what happened in Hollywood with the WGA/SAG-AFTRA strikes that led thousands of people to protest for better working conditions. After 146 days, the WGA (Writers Guild of America) and AMPT (Alliance of Motion Pictures and Television Producers) have reached a tentative deal, but to those still unsure of why everything unfolded and why productions and promotions of projects around the world halted for months, here is a little run down of why people took action in their own hands for a better future. 

These two simultaneous protests have seen both actors/screenwriters and writers demanding better pay and working conditions, alongside more protection against the monopoly of streaming services taking hold of productions and the looming threat of artificial intelligence. The latter has become, in recent years, a menace to actors as AI may be able to reproduce their performances or likenesses to a production company’s needs. Actors demand a more secure set of guarantees against the use of artificial intelligence in the industry. The SAG-AFTRA strike continues and negotiating will resume on October 2nd, hoping that the extraordinary result of the WGA strike continues to inspire better results for every trade organisation in the entertainment industry. 

The same situation might happen in the music industry sooner than we imagine.

Artists, producers and writers need to secure a safer future or better yet, prepare to take action to prevent something like this happening to them. The underpayment of creative minds is an ongoing problem in our society, and today this threat sees even a digital presence. AI counterparts that are tireless, devoid of demands, and compliant with authority may be perceived by music companies as the ultimate means to generate endless parts. 

The music industry has been tirelessly driven by tenacity, creativity and the relentless pursuit of artistic expression, protection and care needed to preserve the soulful expression of the crafts of millions of people. We need to unite in the pursuit of a future where technologies will not eclipse the magic and the vibrant and beating heart of music, a future where artists remain the maestros of their own symphonies, always in control of their own narratives. 

Cover photo by ufcw770