The Artists Vs. The Machine: The Dark Side Of AI In The Music Industry

Taylor Swift, The Tortured Poets Department

Republic Records

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has become overwhelmingly popular in the past few years. The world has leaned full-force into technology and entrusted AI with, well, everything. You can see AI commercials, AI-powered statistics during sports games, and there was even a whole writer’s strike over the AI Invasion of storytelling and Hollywood.

As I’ve watched tens of thousands of layoffs happen across the country – thanks to Artificial Intelligence – I was admittedly hesitant to start using the software. Did I really want to stoop that low and succumb to the enemy? Sadly, yes.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. I’ve seen people AI generate images of their future children, friends using AI to write 1000 word essays, and Temu’s AI Super Bowl ads…so I decided to use it for a week myself.

I may not be AI’s biggest fan, but I do think it can be a helpful tool when used correctly. It can shake up writer’s block, help build outlines, and restructure weak or wordy sentences.

Would I recommend using AI in place of writing your entire essay? No. But it can add some spice.

But with great power comes great responsibility. With AI, you can manipulate almost any voice or photo so it morphs into something else entirely. For a long time on TikTok, my FYP was flooded with AI-generated Frank Sinatra singing Billie Eilish songs.

And you may be thinking, what’s the harm in Ole Blue Eyes singing some Billie? Nothing, but imagine what will happen as we approach the 2024 Presidential Election.

@my.worldo Frank Sinatra (AI cover) - TV (Billie Eilish) | #goviral #billieeilish #franksinatra #tv #song #aicover #lyrics #lyricsvideo #music #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #explore ♬ original sound - 🎶 | 🎧

The usage of AI can convince anyone of anything. Right now, it’s very prevalent in the music industry. People have profited off deep-faked songs by posting them on TikTok and social media platforms…and the originating artists just had to sit there while the fakers pocketed the cash.

@gma Grammy-winning rapper Bad Bunny took to social media to express his frustration over a viral song that uses the technology to recreate his voice. #badbunny #reggaeton #music #latinmusic #ai #artificialintelligence ♬ original sound - Good Morning America

Artists and producers alike have major concerns about how AI might affect the music industry moving forward…despite being a potential money-maker for record labels, it could devalue the original work of human artists.

Deep-Faking Images and AI

When Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce started publicly dating, memes would swirl about Swift’s attendance of Chiefs games. Many football fans were outraged about Swift being shown during coverage of the games…but it went too far when social media users posted deep-faked pornographic images of Swift at a Chiefs game.

Circulation on social media got so bad that X was forced to temporarily block users from searching Taylor Swift in an effort to remove the image from the platform. However, people quickly figured out that searching “Taylor Swift” with quotation marks still provided all posts mentioning her.

Thanks to an AI platform that generates a photo from any sentence you write, there were dozens of deep-faked images of Swift circulating. Whether they were sexually explicit, degrading, or violent, these nonconsensual photos posed a greater threat from AI than ever imagined.

The UK-based Internet Watch Foundation has warned government officials about the growing threat of deepfaked AI images. The technology makes it easy to create potentially harmful images that look very real. But that’s not the only AI issue musicians are facing.

Is This A Real Song…Or Is It AI?

@aiden_kenway How the VIRAL AI Drake Song “Heart On My Sleeve” was Made 🫨🚨 #AI #Drake ♬ original sound - aiden_kenway

Back in April of 2023, a fake collab by Drake and The Weeknd called “Heart On My Sleeve” went viral. The song was the soundtrack of hundreds of TikToks and Instagram Reels, just for people to realize it wasn’t real.

More recently, upon Kendall Jenner and Bad Bunny’s split, another AI-generated TikTok song went viral. This time, with a pitchy Bad Bunny singing “I miss you” and lamenting the end of their relationship.

There are countless examples: Taylor Swift singing about football stars Travis Kelce and Brock Purdy with lyrics like “ So happy my Travvy made it to the big game.” Egregious, outlandish songs that garner a ton of engagement for random spam accounts.

@princesstaylor_1989 SO HAPPY THAT MY TRAVY MADE IT TO THE BIG GAME 🏈 // #taylorswift #taylor #swiftie #swifttok #fyp #foryoupage #fyppppppppppppppppppppppp ♬ style - ella

It’s not merely stealing and exploiting an artist’s voice…but the fact that online users now have a tool that can totally rip off a song within seconds. What used to be a magnificent art form is now a dangerous mess.

Not only does it infringe on artist’s rights and copyright, but it means that anyone can “record” a song with Drake’s voice and make money off it. This shook the industry so badly that Universal Music Group’s stock fell close to 20% from February to May of 2023.

But what Lucian Grainge – chairman of UMG and father-in-law of It-Girl Sofia Richie – wants everyone to lean into AI. Don’t be afraid of the process, but be prepared for when it comes. He tells The New Yorker,

“The things that make me apprehensive are when people can’t see around the corners and the bends. Technology has served the industry very well. From sheet music to upright pianos to big bands and the huge CBS radio network in the U.S. that was going to destroy fledging shellac sales. In the eighties, Linn drum machines, 808s, the Fairlight synthesizer—we’ve always been served very well.”

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