(The following post is part 1 of a two-part post called “Should We Fear AI?”. As I was writing the post, I kept uncovering more and more topics related to AI and the music business that I wanted to address. The post turned out to be very long, so I decided to break the post into two separate posts to make it more digestible. I will be publishing part two in about a week or so.)
Should We Fear AI? (Part 1)
If you’ve been following my posts and videos the last few weeks, you’ll have noticed that I’ve recently developed an interest in AI. I’ve been immersing myself in all things AI recently, exploring the myriad of tools that are emerging in the field of AI and doing my best to understand the implications for musicians and artists, both good and bad.
It’s been an interesting few weeks and the reaction I’ve received from friends and colleagues about my growing interest in AI has been very mixed. It seems like people tend to fall in either one of two groups regarding their view on AI:
In this post, I’m going to explore my views on AI and share my perspective in terms of Ais implications for the music industry, and creatives in general. It goes without saying that I don’t have all the answers and I am not an “expert” per se on AI. I don’t think anyone really knows exactly how this will all play out, the so-called experts included.
Just to be clear, the entirety of this blog post is written by yours truly (Aaron Davison), unless stated otherwise. One of the interesting things about the advent of a technology like Chat GPT, is that it is going to be harder and harder to distinguish actual authentic human voices from ideas generated by AI. This is a potential downside and a real concern, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
What Is AI?
Before we continue, let’s define precisely what “AI”, or “Artificial Intelligence” is and what AI entails. For this, I will use AI itself, Chat GPT, to be precise, to generate an easy to comprehend definition.
I went to Chat GPT and I said: I'm writing a blog post all about AI in the context of the music business. Can you please write me a simple, easy to understand definition of what AI is and, broadly speaking, what AI entails.
Here’s What Chat GPT said:
“Certainly! Here's a simple and easy-to-understand definition of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and what it broadly entails:
Definition of AI: Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. These tasks include understanding natural language, recognizing patterns, making decisions, and learning from experience.
What AI Entails: AI involves creating algorithms and computer programs that enable machines to:
Learn: AI systems can learn from data and adapt to new information. They use techniques like machine learning to improve their performance over time.
Reason: AI can make decisions and solve problems by following logical rules and analyzing data to reach conclusions.
Perceive: AI systems can sense and interpret their environment through sensors, cameras, microphones, and other input devices.
Interact: AI can communicate with humans and other machines through natural language processing (NLP) and speech recognition technologies.
Automate: AI can automate tasks and processes, reducing the need for manual intervention in various industries.
In the context of the music business, AI can be used for tasks such as music recommendation, content generation, songwriting assistance, music composition, and analyzing music trends. It can help artists, producers, and music platforms make data-driven decisions and enhance the music creation and listening experience.”
Ok, so with that definition out of the way, let’s get back to the post.
First, let me back up a few months…
When I first discovered Chat GPT last December, I played around with it for a few weeks and had fun having it write poems, lyrics, etc. It seemed like a cool tool, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how I could use it as musician, entrepreneur etc. I don’t really like the idea of Chat GPT, or other AI tools, doing the heavy lifting for my creative pursuits, since after all, the creative elements of songwriting and composing are to me the most rewarding elements of being an artist. If I don’t get to flex my creativity muscle when I’m making art, then making art and music makes little sense to me.
So, after a few weeks of playing around with Chat GPT, the novelty of it wore off, and I more or less forgot about it for a couple months. Then, in March of this year, I came up with the idea of collaborating with Chat GPT for a song I was working on, and I used Chat GPT to co-wrote the lyrics. I thought it would be a fun experiment and to be honest I thought maybe it would help me get more views on Youtube. It didn’t really work as I had hoped in terms of getting a lot of views, but it was a fun project, and it gave me a glimpse of what’s possible in terms of collaborating with AI and using it as a tool in the context of songwriting.
You can check that song out here:
After the song I recorded, I again put AI and Chat GPT on the backburner, and a few more months went by and more or less forgot about Chat GPT and AI. Until a few weeks ago when I was working on a blog post. Around this point, I was going through a heightened sense of frustration and burn out related to working and for that matter, making music. I have these periods, every couple years or so, where I have this sense of hitting a metaphorical wall and have to figure out how to navigate my way over, or around, whatever blocks I’m experiencing. At this point, I consider these periods fairly normal, and simply a part of the ebb and flow of life.
Although to to be honest this period of feeling “blocked” was more intense and longer lasting than previous blocks. I won’t bore you with the details, as that would make what is going to turn out to be a fairly long post, even longer. But suffice it to say, I was feeling pretty stuck, and a lot of what I was feeling was related to simply working too much. I had too much on my plate. I had reached a point where it seemed like I was working harder and harder but getting diminishing returns. Something had to give.
Right around this time, as I was trying to figure out how to get my mojo back and get things back on track, is when I I thought to myself, “hey there’s thing called Chat GPT, I should see if it can help me gather some of the data I need for the project I’m working on”. (I was working on a blog for a different website I sometimes write for related to travel).
The results astounded me. Within mere seconds I had a complete list of the data I needed, complete with citations, references and website links for related resources. I was stunned and to be honest my jaw dropped in astonishment. I had just saved myself probably about two or three hours of work, with a simple request and the click of a mouse.
This experience led me down the AI rabbit hole. Prior to this experience, I didn’t quite “get” AI. I mean it seemed pretty cool, but I just hadn’t been able to piece together how I could really apply it to what I do as a musician/entrepreneur. It’s cool that it can write short stories, poems and lyrics, and so on, but I’m not interested in working with a machine that can potentially replace me. Like I said, the creative aspect of songwriting is the most rewarding part of being a songwriter for me. The last thing I want is a machine to replace the aspect of being a musician I enjoy the most; the creativity!
However, my experience working on my blog, was an aha moment. I realized I had been looking at AI and Chat GPT all wrong. I slowly started connecting the dots in terms of how I could actually apply Chat GPT and AI to what it is I do.
What followed was a period of heightened creativity and inspiration. Once I had a glimpse of what’s possible with AI, I started making more and more connections in terms of how I could apply AI to many of my different pursuits and interests.
Although, the ironic thing is that even though AI can save us vast amounts of time and help us work more efficiently, I have been working harder than ever and putting in longer hours than usual, out of sheer excitement to create and implement new ideas I’m coming up with. It feels like the floodgates of creativity have opened, because now I realize I have the tools to actually create many of the whacky ideas I come up with, quickly and efficiently.
I’ll give you an example. Last week I was lying in bed after a meditation session and an idea popped in my head for a short film concept that I wanted to make. The idea was that there is an AI entity trapped in a Youtube video, pondering the nature of consciousness and what it means to be human vs AI. I then thought, that’s kind of a cool idea, let me go to Chat GPT and present the concept and have it write me a script, and also, it would be cool to make it in the “style of” David Lynch.
I went to Chat GPT, described my concept, hit enter and voila. A complete script based on my concept. I then used another AI tool I have to do the voiceover for the script and I edited the film myself using a variety of stock video footage I found. I ended up making the entire 6 minute short in an evening. From concept to finished product in a night. Now, to be fair, whether or not the “film” is actually good is debatable. I think it’s cool!
But, the more astonishing fact is that I was able to come up with an idea, create a script and then finish the project in an evening, having never even made a short “film” before. And this is what excites me about AI the most; the potential to birth our ideas into life much more quickly.
Here’s the short I generated, if you want to check that out….
AI encompasses many different programs and tools. In part two of this post I’ll explore a few different AI tools, but in this post I’ll be focusing on Chat GPT, since it’s probably the most well-known AI tool at this point. It’s also the AI tool I’ve been using the most.
Chat GPT is a remarkable tool and it’s capable of amazing things, however, its output is based on your input and is limited and restrained by what you ask it to do. The better input you give it, also known as prompts, the better results it will deliver. Garbage in, garbage out. The more precise you can be with what you want it to do, the better results you will get.
Let me give you an example. I will get to Chat GPT write now and have it do a few different tasks, starting from simple and mundane, to more complex and impressive.
Let’s start with something silly and trite.
Here’s my first prompt: “Chat GPT, write me a silly four-line poem about the joys of summer”:
Here’s what it wrote:
Beneath a sun that's oh so bright,
I wore my shorts a tad too tight.
Ice cream melts and flip-flops flutter,
Summer's here, let's spread the butter!
I asked for a silly poem and it delivered. Now let’s try to have it do something a bit more interesting.
Here’s my second prompt:
Please write a short essay, outlining the ways AI could both potentially hurt and potentially help musicians and the music industry. Please make the essay short, as this is part of a much larger blog post I’m working on.
Here’s what it created, in about five seconds:
The Double-edged Sword of AI in the Music Industry
The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the 21st century presents both exhilarating possibilities and daunting challenges for musicians and the broader music industry. As with any technological advancement, the implications of AI span a spectrum of positive and negative outcomes, reshaping the landscape of music creation, distribution, and consumption.
Potential Benefits of AI for Musicians and the Music Industry:
Assisting Creation: AI can serve as a collaborative tool for artists, suggesting chord progressions, generating lyrics, or even creating ambient sounds. It can bridge the gap between an artist's imagination and the final product, especially for those who might be musically inclined but lack formal training.
Personalized Listening Experiences: For listeners, AI can enhance music streaming platforms' ability to provide personalized recommendations, creating a more tailored and enjoyable listening experience.
Music Education: AI-driven applications can offer adaptive learning experiences, guiding budding musicians through their musical journey, adapting to their pace and style, and offering instant feedback.
Analyzing Consumer Preferences: The music industry can use AI to better understand listener preferences, potentially leading to better market predictions and more strategic releases of songs and albums.
Potential Detriments of AI for Musicians and the Music Industry:
Over-Reliance and Diminishing Creativity: While AI can assist in the creation process, there's a risk that artists might become overly reliant on it. This could lead to a homogenization of music, where AI-generated tracks dominate the charts, potentially stifling true creativity and the unique human touch.
Economic Impacts: As AI develops the capacity to produce music independently, it's possible that the demand for human-made music might decrease, potentially reducing income opportunities for musicians.
Intellectual Property Concerns: With AI-generated music, the lines around copyright and ownership become blurry. Who owns the rights to a song created by an AI? The programmer? The operator? The implications are vast and require careful navigation.
Devaluation of Human Skill: As AI tools become more accessible, there's a risk that the intrinsic value of human musicianship, with years of training and practice, might be undermined or overlooked.
In conclusion, AI's role in the music industry offers a paradigm shift, promising avenues of innovation while simultaneously posing significant challenges. Embracing AI's potential benefits, while remaining critically aware of its limitations and potential pitfalls, will be crucial. As we stand on the brink of this new era, it's essential for musicians, industry professionals, and consumers alike to engage in discussions about AI's role in shaping the future soundscape.
Pretty impressive. In the second example, I asked for something more substantive and was more precise in terms of what I was looking for and it delivered accordingly.
Let’s try one more example and I’ll give it an even more clearly defined set of parameters.
I said: “please give me a list of potential blog post topics I can write about related to how musicians can utilize AI, to make more money with their music. Please provide examples and related resources with url links”.
And here’s what Chat GPT said:
“Certainly! Here's a list of potential blog post topics related to how musicians can utilize AI to increase their revenue from music, along with examples and related resources where you can find more information:
"AI-Assisted Music Creation: The Next Frontier?"
Example: Apps like Amper Music or AIVA that help artists create soundtracks or backing tracks using AI.
Resource: Amper Music and AIVA.
"Optimizing Music Releases with AI-Powered Analysis"
Example: LANDR’s mastering services that use AI to optimize tracks.
"Personalized Marketing: How AI Can Boost Your Music Sales"
Example: Platforms like Spotify using AI to recommend songs to users.
Resource: Spotify for Artists.
"The Age of the AI Music Tutor: Learning and Monetizing"
Example: Apps like Yousician that provide real-time feedback on playing instruments.
"Monetizing with AI-Powered Concerts: The New Normal?"
Example: Virtual reality concerts where AI avatars perform.
"Using AI to Understand Your Fanbase Better"
Example: Services that analyze social media sentiments or engagement patterns using AI.
Resource: Platforms like Hootsuite Insights.
"AI in Merchandise: Increasing Sales with Smart Recommendations"
Example: Websites offering merchandise suggestions based on fan preferences and browsing history.
Resource: Platforms like Shopify's AI Recommendations.
"Leveraging AI Chatbots for Direct Music Sales"
Example: Using chatbots on websites to recommend albums, tracks, or merchandise to visitors.
Resource: Tools like MobileMonkey.
"Crowd Control: Using AI to Optimize Live Performance Bookings"
Example: Analyzing fan location data to select best performing cities or venues.
Resource: Next Big Sound by Pandora.
"Revolutionizing Music Licensing with AI"
Example: AI platforms matching creators with businesses needing specific music styles.
Resource: Services like Jingle Punks.”
Pretty amazing. I gave it a very specific request and it gave me a very specific answer. I could now take any single topic it gave me and dive deeper into any specific topic, adding my own voice to it, choosing what elements to focus on, what elements to skip over and so on.
Chat GPT is essentially like Google on steroids. I’m starting to see it as sort of akin to a virtual assistant. It’s great at compiling data, brainstorming business ideas, creating outlines for projects, and so on. Used in the right context, it’s an incredibly powerful tool and can save you a tremendous amount of time and effort. I’m actually the least impressed with its creative writing abilities, although it can certainly be used to generate ideas, rough drafts and so on, that you could then expand on.
The most interesting results I’m getting so far, are a collaboration of AI and human creativity and this is what I’m personally the most interested in; the intersection between human creativity and AI. This blog post is a good example. The majority of the writing and ideas are mine. I came up with the concept and I’m writing the majority of the post, but I’m using AI to illustrate my points and provide more context and data to support my initial premise. This is how I’m personally interested in using AI. I don’t want AI to replace me, or you for that matter, but I love the fact that it can save me time and help me do my job more efficiently and more effectively.
What About Creating Music With AI?
As I said, this is part one of a two-part blog post, and in the next post I’m going to dive deeper into using AI to assist in creating music. Again, this is the aspect of AI that I’m the least excited about in the context of the music business. That said, there are some powerful tools out there for musicians to be aware of and there are applications where it makes sense for artists to leverage the power of AI. For example, there are some amazing AI production tools that can assist artists in improving their production quality. There are some great tools for quickly creating backing tracks that could be potentially used in conjunction with artists creating original melodies and ideas over the top.
I don’t think we should entirely discount AI in the context of making music, but in my mind at least, creativity is a uniquely human endeavor and part of the beauty of art is the blood, sweat and tears that goes into creating a great work of art. There’s a lot to explore and in my next post, I will be exploring these ideas in more detail.
The Way I See It
So who’s right? Will AI take over the world and be the end of us all? Will we become subservient to AI and its powers? Or will we, collectively, use AI to improve humanity and our individual lives and create a more harmonious, peaceful world?
As with any new tool or technology, the potential for both possibilities exist. A hammer can be used as a tool for hammering nails, or it can be used as a weapon to kill someone. Nuclear power can be used to create energy that powers our homes, but it can also potentially be used to destroy the world in the form of nuclear weapons. Every new technology presents both a potential upside and potential downside. This is the nature of the dualistic world we live in.
My take on AI is this: AI and AI related technology isn’t going anywhere. This thing is just getting started. The implications it has for disrupting and transforming a myriad of industries is quite staggering and there is no doubt many industries will be transformed, and jobs will be lost.
However, the flipside is that AI is also an incredibly powerful tool that we can use to work more efficiently and do many tasks more effectively. In the right hands, it’s a remarkable tool and I also have no doubt will help many entrepreneurs, creatives, engineers and so on become more productive.
Will AI be a net positive for humanity? I honestly think it’s too soon to say. I can envision many positive applications for AI and I think it will be an incredible tool in the right hands. However, in the wrong hands, it could potentially disrupt and negatively impact many industries. As with any new technology, early adopters will reap the most rewards, which is why I’m focusing so much on learning how to work with AI in a positive way and studying AI to fully understand its implications for musicians and the music business.
What about you? What are your thoughts on AI in terms of the music business? Are you using AI tools already? Share your thoughts below, the good, bad and the ugly!