Is AI going to destroy music?
Will lyric-writing bots, and track-making bots have an orgy and put songwriters out of business?
There are two important reasons why this is a non-issue.
Everyone is always scared of new technology. It always seems to spell the demise of music, and then give it 10 years, and it turns out that it wasn’t the anti-christ, it was like all other technology: a tool to use, to give you an outcome that wasn’t available before.
And like most of the new technologies, it’s always the people that use it in some way that it wasn’t intended to be used that end up creating something new and beautiful.
People ridiculed Suzanna Ciani, the electronic music pioneer who invented the vocoder. David Letterman publicly made fun of her for inventing something that made “people sound goofy”. Oh, David.
Pioneers aren’t afraid of it. They embrace it, and treat it playfully like a new instrument, because that’s all it ever is.
AI is auto-tune going by a different name.
Yes – autotune can make anyone sing a perfect melody, but it turns out that humans still like hearing other humans sing, because we’re all human.
People thought T-Pain ruined music (Usher told him so to his face on an aeroplane), but you know what? He didn’t ruin music. Music is still great. And there’s so much more of it than there was before. And also? As T-Pain himself says, he didn’t get successful because of autotune.
He got successful because he is:
- A great singer
- Who found and embraced a signature sound; and
- Wrote damn good songs
- And worked so so hard
Which leads us to…
People respond to art not really because of the output. The ‘thing’ itself is kind of an avatar for all of the humanness that is poured into it, which is what people really respond and connect with.
As Man Booker Prize winning author George Saunders says, “If a work of art is overflowing with energy, and with human life and it’s been beautifully organised to contain that energy and present it, that’s actually what sends us out of the theatre or out of the book happy.”
Same is true with music.
So please don’t worry or despair. Keep making art and writing songs. Robots can’t (yet) auto-generate human connection. In that sense, I agree with Nick Cave. In another sense, however, I do believe it is the people who embrace a new technology rather than deriding it that will end up as the new captains of the ship.