Music By AI – A Warning Label Is Now Required


Last week, The Verge asked the question, “AI is capable of making music, but does that make AI an artist?” Wow, is that the wrong question. First, you need to define art. I’m sure you have your own definition (it’s personal), but here’s mine: Art cannot be ignored. Art is not to be confused with craft (which may contain the work of artists). Craft can easily be ignored. The distinction between “art” and “craft” is critical. One has magical qualities that touch your soul; the other is just “nicely done.” That said, neither art nor craft should ever be confused with technical skill; just because you can type 120 words per minute does not mean you can write a novel.

The Verge article explored the evolution of human/AI copyright ownership. “What happens if AI software trained solely on Beyoncé creates a track that sounds just like her?” It is also the wrong question. Every human learns music by doing everything humanly possible to mimic other musicians (starting with their own music teachers). How would artificial musical intelligence learn music without “listening” to other musicians? And, other than attempting to create a musical Jurassic Park, why would you ever train any musician (AI or human) on only one other musician’s work? A quick answer might be to capitalize on the creative genius of one particular musical star, like Beyoncé.

What you may not know is that there are literally hundreds (probably thousands) of human composers and producers who can convincingly create a track that even Beyoncé would think she wrote, performed, and produced. Great music is everywhere. Sadly, it’s not the part of the music business that actually sells music. Beyoncé is a package that includes brains, marketing, business, organizational, social, and human skills all wrapped up in a beautiful bundle of extraordinary talent. Her business acumen, style, smile, manner, musicianship, dancing, and relationships all contribute to her success.

If you created the music in a vacuum – no pictures, no dancing, no fashion, no social media, no power couple, no hype – just music, no one would care that any particular song sounded like her songs sound. In other words, if I do a perfect Beyoncé knock-off and put it on YouTube, there are absolutely no guarantees of success. In fact, because it would be so close to something we’ve heard a lot of, it would probably have less chance of finding an audience.

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Shelly Palmer is Fox 5 New York's On-air Tech Expert (WNYW-TV) and the host of Fox Television's monthly show Shelly Palmer Digital Living. He also hosts United Stations Radio Network's, ...

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