AI in the Music Industry

Everybody has their song: windows down, music blasting and a connection with every word and detail. The lyrics of these songs touch us because of the people behind them; hearing an artist in perfect words describe something we have felt before makes us feel less alone. But these songwriters and the musical feelings they share with us are threatened. The significant introduction of artificial intelligence into the music industry presents the daunting question of the authenticity of and future for songwriters in a world where their musical feelings could turn artificial.  

It is hard to grasp the true limitations of AI at this point in time. Its power to reincarnate unreleased music, brushing the dust off of songs deemed inadequate or incomplete for release, is just one way AI is making its mark. Notably, the Beatles used AI’s “audio enhancing technology” to continue producing music some 40 odd years after the passing of legendary Beatle, John Lennon.  

Subsequently, the Beatles were able to publish the track “Now and Then.” According to the magazine Wired, director Peter Jackson and his team developed an artificial intelligence tool that had the power to dissect an old cassette tape from the ‘80s in order to identify and sort various instruments and voices.

For TPHS teacher Austin Wade, who teaches the Socio-Political History of Rock N Roll, the possibilities of this technology in unearthing lost music are exciting.

“There are so many unreleased pieces of music sitting in literally a closet somewhere from so many amazing artists and bands —  many who have now passed away,” Wade said. “Artificial intelligence could be a fun way to bring some of that music back.” 

However, for some artists, the idea of artificial intelligence gaining the ability to write a song in a more systematic fashion raises concern over the authenticity of future works. By letting technology take over, artists’ passion for creating original content may fade away with their creativity. 

With this, the question arises of whether — and then, how — artificial intelligence will gain the ability to maintain listeners in the absence of human connection, as traditional song-writing often stems from human experiences. 

“One of the beautiful parts of music is that it is a human connection with somebody else who has lived through an experience, or a perspective,” Wade said. “We all have those songs for those moments in life; whether it be a celebration or a breakup, you listen to a piece of music and it’s like ‘wow, this person went through what I am going through,’ which is really powerful.”

But aside from the current skepticism,  Samuel Sheffield (‘22), who plays in a band called Black Sweater, points out that the public will gradually be provided with the opportunity to adapt to the coming changes in the industry, as it will “mirror the evolution of other music technologies.”

“As AI continues to enhance and refine its capabilities, its presence in the music industry is destined to become increasingly commonplace,” Sheffield said. 

In Wade’s class, guest speaker Mike Halloran, a radio personality and past music director, recently discussed how artificial intelligence may become the next influence on the music industry; according to Wade, he brought forth the idea that AI isn’t necessarily the destiny of future music production, but rather a tool to assist the growth of the industry.

Wade agrees with Halloran. To him, a music industry without a human element “does not seem feasible.”

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