Have you ever imagined Whitney Houston singing Super Shy from New Jeans? Through Generative Music, this dream can be brought to life. By imitating real voices and creating music based on an artists’ style, this innovation can achieve musical feats we once considered to be impossible. It is an AI computer programme that acts as a catalyst for creativity and transformation, lighting up the thought processes of composers. This ingenious technology further extends to resurrecting dead artists and continuing their musical career! And, thanks to the ultra-developed AI technology, all of this can be achieved independently – without consulting another human being!
But… is this something that we actually want? Giving rise to ethical problems, producing music without consent, or threatening musicians’ futures… We must pause and think carefully about whether the utilisation of AI brings the right progression to our music industry.
The biggest problem with the usage of AI in music is that generative music is implemented without any need for permission from the original creators, threatening artists’ careers. On the 14th of April, 2023, popular hip hop artist Drake highlighted his opinion on his AI-generated voice. As the AI-generated voice behind a viral song, he shared his deep frustration, writing that “This is the last straw”. The main cause of his anger was the song’s popularity, which suggested that the public did not share his hostility: this AI-generated song had more views on youtube than his original songs. Drake never gave consent for generative music to use his voice and it was evident that the unauthorised piece of music was shamelessly stealing popularity and views from his original art. As fans of an artist, it may feel exciting to access new musical possibilities – but we must remember that these new creations come at the cost of violating the artists themselves.
Artists are already warning us of the potential consequences. If this carries on, artists will feel useless as AIs can replace them at the click of a button. This would be profoundly dangerous for the creative health of our societies. After all, why would they produce new songs if a machine will reap the rewards? As Ed Sheeran said on Audacy Live: “I just don’t know why you need it – if you’re taking a job away from a human being. Just don’t do it”. The number of new artists would rapidly decrease as they know their style of music will soon be replaced by AIs.
With this technology dominating our world, musicians and composers lose ownership of their likeness. Artists have possession of their own appearance such as voice or face. As it is their own body feature, they are the only ones who have the right to use their own body in the way they want. Therefore, they should have full control over it. However, generative AI does not take this into consideration and uses voice without any consent. Not only is this concerning for the artists themselves, but it meets huge limitations based on the legal system. According to property laws, the act of using other’s appearance in order to earn money without their permission is totally illegal. The actions of generative AIs are in fact illegal.
And what about the ethical concerns that exist? Should we actually be allowed to recall voices of dead artists and carry on their musical career without their knowledge? Once again, no consent has been given from the original artist – more seriously still, no consent can ever be given from the original artist. Without that permission, this behaviour must be considered as deeply concerning from an ethical standpoint. We do not know whether these artists want artwork to be created by their voice. By disregarding every moral standard and speaking through the voices of the deceased, Generative Music shows total disrespect towards these individuals.
All these consequences are brought due to the utilisation of generative AIs.
To make sure that these consequences are prevented, 2 solutions exist. The first one is to strengthen copyright and intellectual property laws. Laws should directly engage with the application of AIs in music creation. Specified assertions about the rights and responsibilities of human creators and AI-developers should be provided. Also, AI generated music should be explicitly labelled for the convenience of the listeners. If listeners know whether songs are AI generated or not, artist right issues won’t be as severe as they are now. If composers decide not to label their music, this could be punished according to the law developed. The law must be more specific about issues of consent in relation to generative AI. If AIs are imitating an artist’s song or style of singing, people using AIs should be required to gain permission before sharing it with the public and laws should make strict restrictions based on this. Laws should encourage creativity while also safeguarding the interests of creators.
The second solution is to increase awareness of the problem of voice theft. If the role of generative AI in music production is truly going to change, then public attitudes must change too. Artists can use their platforms to present the negative consequences which will come due to voice stealing. They can ask their fans to share this information with their peers, classmates or neighbours. To prevent this problem happening in the future, educational campaigns can stand up to inform the public and artists about the legal implications of voice theft and the actual punishments given. These organisations can encourage the prevention of voice theft. As artists are celebrities who share themselves to the public, they are at risk of suffering this problem. Therefore, increased awareness is necessary to stop further harm: rather than simply enjoying the novelty of this technology, fans must become more knowledgeable about how it can hurt their favourite artists.
Generative AI provides us a range of technologies that can be utilised well for more efficient composing of pieces. This is definitely a huge benefit to the music industry. However, we have to be careful about the usage of AI. As generative music disregards artist rights such as possession to their own song or ownership to their likeness, it poses huge harm to artists. Though the innovative technology can open the door to a new world, strengthened copyright laws and developed caution is needed to protect our musical future.
Dabin (Oscar) Kim