Photo by Bryan Huynh / Courtesy of Vogue.
Grimes has been in the spotlight recently for addressing comments about her support for AI-generated music. Grimes mentioned in Sean Carroll’s Mindscape podcast, “I feel like we’re in the end of art, human art, once there’s actually AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), they’re gonna be so much better at making art than us.” Throughout the podcast, Grimes talks about the influence AI has had on many of her albums. What’s interesting about Grimes is that she has created a successful career and advocates for the use of Artificial Intelligence to push the brinks of creativity.
There have been other artists who are against the use of AI in music, and many speculate that it ruins the human experience of creativity. Fellow musician Zola Jesus called Grime’s comments on AI a “voice of silicon fascist privilege.” There have been many blue-collar jobs that have been displaced by Artificial Intelligence so it definitely becomes a touchy subject for many people. Of course, there are many artists who agree with Grimes and say that AI won’t end human creativity but add to the many facets of creativity.
Artists like Toro y Moi, Arca, and Holly Henderson have been showing interest in working with AI to expand their musical repertoire. Arca mentioned in a phone call interview with TIME, “It’s provided me a sense of relief and excitement that not everything has been done — that there’s a wide-open horizon of possibility.”
Many musicians have trained machine-learning models with data based on their specific style or what they want a specific beat to sound like. There is also something called a neural network that mimics the brain’s neurological activity in order to create musical compositions. There are many companies that have used AI-created music for their advertisements. This seems to be a great option for many businesses because it ultimately speeds the musical process up. In the year 2016, a song called “Daddy’s Car” was created and crafted by AI. The artist American YouTuber Taryn Southern, created an entire LP using AI technologies.
For many artists and creators, AI is a chance to create a new persona together. During the 21st century, we have seen virtual popstars or influencers gain popularity and cult followings. There are many of these virtual humans out there creating music. In fact, the popular music group Gorillaz has over 20 years of experience with creating music using AI technology. Although much of this artist's music was created years before the rise of sophisticated AI technology, Gorillaz became a popular example of how virtual members can create an interesting juxtaposition in the world of music.
In fact, you could possibly trace back the idea of virtual pop stars and musicians to the 1950s with Alvin and the Chipmunks and The Archies. Although the new virtual popstars have become much more complicated than these two groups, it has been something that has always interested audiences and musicians alike. This type of technology used in music in the 21st century has captivated a mainly Gen-Z audience. The reason that many people have really enjoyed the idea of virtual pop stars and influencers is that there is a way to connect to them that many traditional artists cannot fulfill. The fact that these popstars are virtual means that they are able to be in different places at the same time, reaching many fans with a more personable approach.
One of the most important virtual personas that influenced people like Grimes is the Japanese virtual popstar, Hatsune Miku. Hatsune’s first appearance is dated back to 2007 and finally retired in the year 2019. She is a Japanese music sensation aged sixteen. What’s interesting about Hatsune is that you can actually attend her concerts. There are millions of fans that have gone to her concerts. How can a virtual popstar hold an actual concert? The answer is quite simple: a hologram. Hatsune is popular because of her grand concerts where you can see her singing and dancing as a hologram on stage.
Although not all influencers are popstars, they are important to mention because they are prevalent in social media. Influencers like Miquela Sousa have taken the world by storm when she first made her appearance. Many speculated that it almost looked like a Sim from the popular video game The Sims. While technically Miquela is a simulated person, she has her own Instagram account in which she records her experiences with other influencers, AI, and humans alike. Miquela, while not labeling herself a popstar, has released music as well.
While AI doesn’t have to be directly involved in creating music or creating an entirely new persona for people to enjoy and listen to, it’s used in many aspects of the musical world. The interesting and most unique aspect of AI is that it can be used for one specific purpose and this purpose can be done in less than half the time that it would take a human manually to do it. Many music platforms like Spotify and Apple have introduced AI commentary to create a more immersive experience for their users.
Spotify announced that they are creating a new aspect within their app called DJ. This new AI feature is designed to personalize the music experience. Spotify’s DJ will curate a specific music selection based on what their user listens to and also adds commentary on tracks and albums. Spotify has said that the voice of the DJ is a “stunningly realistic voice.” The idea of this new feature is for DJ to get to know the user better and aid their experience when using Spotify. It also becomes an experience for users who don’t want to dictate their every move on the app, this feature will be able to do much of the manual work of the user. This feature is still in its beta testing stage but the company has high hopes for this new feature. Spotify says that it’s an added feature to their already growing usage of AI-aided experiences for their users. Spotify has commented, “Culturally relevant, accurate pieces of commentary at scale,” and many users are excited to try out this new feature.
An example of the AI-generated commentary that DJ will offer its users can be something like, “This week, Chicago rapper Polo G teams up with Atlanta’s Future for his first release of the year. This also marks the pair’s first collaboration, but they’re united by production from Southside, who has worked extensively with both and is said to be responsible for most of the music on Polo’s upcoming project.” The more that you use this feature, the more fine-tuned the responses will become.
The DJ feature has arrived at a controversial point when it comes to AI technology. There is concern that once the bar is set, the stakes to reaching that bar will become higher and higher. Many questions if we are valuing AI more than the actual human experience. Once Spotify released its new feature in March, many users will have the chance to speak about their experiences.
Another feature that AI is able to give many musicians is the ability to create the sharpest-sounding music. Mastering music to fit different platforms can be difficult for many artists and producers. The aid of AI could make processes like this a lot easier. Machine learning has been essential for many electronic artists, but slowly this type of technology is seeping into other genres of music. One thing about this technology is that it costs less money, which helps many independent and upcoming artists.
When researching which program will suit the needs of your music better, there are many options online to research. The best way to really get a feel for these programs is through demos on Youtube or on the company’s website.
Even if you aren’t aware of the conversations about AI technology, there are certainly conversations about the longevity power of AI technology. There are many opinions out there but what really matters is the need of the artist. There are a plethora of artists who are really embracing this new technology and there are other artists who prefer traditional methods when it comes to making music.
It’s important to remember that AI technology cannot replace the creative work of a human, but rather can aid the process and make it easier for the artist to produce quality music. What are your opinions on the use of technology within the music industry? What are your preferred methods of making music?