5 Ways Musicians Are Making The Most Of AI Tools

Ora Sawyers

Michael Huppe is President & CEO of SoundExchange, an adjunct music law professor, published author, frequent contributor and lecturer.

With the advent of MTV in 1981, there were those who cautioned that video would kill the radio star (though that, of course, didn’t happen). In 2024, the newest technological wave confronting the music industry is artificial intelligence, and it’s reasonable to ask what Al will mean for today’s musicians.

It’s still early days, and there is clearly some cause for concern. AI presents very real risks as it impacts almost all segments of our culture, and we must create legal and professional guardrails to ensure music creators are protected. However, there is another positive side to AI—one that recognizes it as a tool for creators with the promise to unleash a new wave of human artistry and creativity, just as music videos did in the 1980s.

More Than A Flash In The Pan

In the period since generative AI burst onto the scene a year ago, musicians around the world have broadly embraced the technology. Every day, they’ve been experimenting with an array of tools to hone their craft and make new music that moves us. AI is no flash in the pan; it’s here to stay.

It should surprise no one that there have been bumps along the way. Look no further than “Ghostwriter,” an anonymous creator who released an AI-generated song made to sound like it was performed by Drake and The Weeknd without the artists’ consent. This is a cautionary tale that should give us pause.

Yet, many of the early experiments have produced intriguing results. Below are just five of the ways artists are harnessing the power of AI to change the music industry right before our eyes.

Five Ways Artists Are Harnessing The Power Of AI

1. Music Resurrectionists

The most prominent are what I call the “music resurrectionists.” These are people like Paul McCartney, who used AI to restore a John Lennon track to create the last Beatles song, “Now and Then,” and Timbaland, who fulfilled a deep desire to collaborate with the late great Biggie Smalls. AI helped fashion new music from those who have passed, based on their own unique sound, recreating their voices with high fidelity to bring together past and present.

2. Seeking Second Chances

Similarly, there are those seeking “second chances.” Consider The D.O.C., a famous rapper from the ’80s (and cofounder of Death Row Records) who is utilizing AI technology to generate original vocals in the wake of a tragic car accident in 1989 that permanently altered his voice. He is creating and performing again, thanks to the power of AI.

3. Market Expanders

Another group of creators is the “market expanders,” using AI tools to broaden the reach of their music. For instance, K-Pop’s biggest label, HYBE, dropped a new release by the artist MidNatt in six languages simultaneously with the help of AI.

Similarly, Jordan “DJ Swivel” Young (a Grammy-winning engineer and producer known for his work with Beyonce, BTS and Dua Lipa) worked with pop star Lauv to develop an AI voice model so that they could translate the songwriter’s single “Love U Like That” into Korean.

4. Bringing It To The People

We have those using this technology to “bring it to the people.” They’re using AI to propagate their musical style. These are artists like Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, who is working with AI companies to develop software able to recreate his enigmatic use of amplifiers and rare pedals to create his signature sound.

On YouTube, nine artists, including Charlie Puth, Charli XCX, Demi Lovato, John Legend, Sia and T-Pain, have chosen to allow individual (amateur) creators the opportunity to make 30-second tracks using their signature voices. In this way, AI is bringing the musical craft to a different and new set of creators while honoring the contributions (and intellectual property) of these great artists.

5. Working Musicians

And lastly, there are the “working musicians.” These are the producers using AI tools like BandLab to lay down new beats, the lyricists finding a way to escape writer’s block through ChatGPT and the up-and-coming artists embracing WavTool to help find their sound.

The Future Of AI In Music

It’s clear that AI is another way technology can be used to make the act of creating music more accessible and diverse. The ways it will be used will be as varied as the musicians who use them.

One critical note: All this must be done with appropriate respect and permission for the creators upon whose work these tools are deployed. That’s why I’ve been a strong and vocal advocate for the three C’s of music and AI: consent, credit and compensation. These principles help make clear distinctions between constructive uses of AI tools (where creators’ property and persona are protected) and more troubling ones (where creators are not respected or compensated).

With these principles as a guide, I am hopeful that AI can be used in service of the creative forces in our industry who won’t be replaced with soulless bots. Done correctly and with appropriate protections, I believe this moment could mark a tipping point in the music industry, and I’m excited to see how this new world develops.


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