Artificial Intelligence and the future of music: how to survive as a musician in a world dominated by AI
Life seems to have gone from online banking and 420p videos of someone getting slapped, to pissed-up Zoom gatherings, to taking over every aspect of human existence in a pretty nifty little personal best.
<insert any word here> and AI has it covered.
Yes, probably even that you creep.
Fuelled by the perpetual fear that not using it will leave you behind, we get sucked in by the trend and in turn, just feed the machine even more; akin to continuing to buy from Amazon because it’s just too convenient.
It’s here, in music, too. I hear a lot of people asking if it’s already too late and here is my take (it’s optimistic).
The problem is, AI, even in its relatively fledgling state is absolutely mindblowing. But like any drug, the highs stop feeling as high so you just keep throttling it until you end up in a ditch somewhere with shit pants regretting every decision you made that led up to this point.
So, how can you survive as an artist/creative in a world where the capillaries are bursting with artificial intelligence? Where it seems impossible to escape?
It’s actually easier than you think.
I’d been wildly pessimistic about this for a while, as I’m sure you have too, but today, after a solo early Sunday stroll on London’s pre-awakened streets I could absorb more of the small things. But first…
Let’s talk about the state of AI in the music industry at the moment.
AI in the music industry
AI is alive in the music industry already in multiple different forms.
Spotify’s recommendation engines use it to deliver personalised playlists to you based on your listening habits and it’s also introduced a more in-your-face feature of an AI DJ which not only plays your favourite songs but also layers a voiceover for your own personal radio station.
I’m going to focus on generative AI. It’s newer, more hyped and seems the most threatening to the creative side of artists.
What is generative AI? Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence technology that’s been making waves lately. It’s pretty mindblowing because it can create all kinds of content, like text, images, audio, and synthetic data. The buzz around it stems from new user interfaces that make it easier for people to generate high-quality text, graphics, and videos quickly – like, seconds quickly.
Just imagine the hundreds of Elvis impersonators, spending hours refining their craft of the “Oh-hu-hu’s” and then multiply that by a million. Then get rid of the slight insanity and stick on sideburns, and you’ve got AI music generators.
Is AI already taking over?
It’s here. Aisis (the AI counterpart to Oasis) just released their/its first album. And it’s scarily accurate to say it’s only the beginning.
You’ve probably heard of the ‘works’ of pseudonymous producer Ghostwriter, too, who’s currently taking TikTok by storm after releasing multiple AI tracks artificially, but very convincingly, ‘featuring’ the likes of Drake, The Weeknd, Rihanna and Bad Bunny.
The labels have since had these taken down but the Drake and The Weeknd track hit some impressive stats before its removal.
– 600,000 Spotify streams
– 15 million TikTok views
– 275,000 YouTube views
Although there’s a novelty factor to it all, it’s a sign that consumers have a keen interest in artificially created music; and while these are generated by ‘artists’ giving specific prompts, could your favourite Arctic Monkeys song soon be written by you? Without them ever knowing it exists.
The keys to survival as an artist
AI is everywhere and it’s only going to integrate itself further and become more developed, there’s simply no denying it.
While this sounds like you’re up against an unstoppable force that’s only getting stronger, you’ve got to distance yourself before you start crying or worse- giving up.
It’s easy right now to focus on the promise of quicker success and fame, but ultimately you’ve got to ignore it and stay focused on the things you were focused on before it started to take over.
The issue can be addressed like any other issue, by taking a step back. Ultimately, you’re not against AI, you’re still against humans. The competition for status, attention, and people becoming invested in your story and becoming fans. It’s still a human game.
Yes, AI has the capability to generate a new song by your favourite band in minutes with almost flawless accuracy, but it can’t progress beyond the data it’s fed.
If you fed AI Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, it definitely would not have given you Sculptures of Anything Goes in The Car – not in a million years. The same way the self-title Queen album wouldn’t generate Behemiom Rhapsody in A Night At The Opera.
It would create more of the same, which is short-term gold but long-term disaster. People get bored of the same.
This means the battle you’re experiencing now against AI is part of the same war you’ve been involved in all along- for the attention of the listener and keeping it. And while AI is currently grabbing it, the novelty will soon wear down and the lack of story and meaning behind the artificially generated art will mean it fades just as fast.
The only defence against AI as an artist is self-progression, which is already the only survival against the mundane and cliché. AI is only going to homogenise the landscape, use that to your advantage.
You’ve got to think long-term, always, otherwise, you’ll be swept up by the hype and be on a continual chase of something that is on an exponential growth spurt. Breakthroughs are popping up all the time, but these breakthroughs are created by people who’ve had a focused vision of creating these; not because their pal told them that they should probably start using Chat-GPT ‘because it’s class’
That fear of missing out that you feel when you see these shiny new advancements should be dampened with calmness and confidence that you’re on the right path to authentic work and long-term success.
There’s an energy that is felt within your work. A uniqueness that cannot be explained or pinpointed, never mind replicated.
It can’t take the drugs you’ve consumed, it’s never fallen in love with the most beautiful woman in the world, experienced the heartbreak you’ve had, felt the gut-wrenching pain of being cheated on and it hasn’t sat helplessly enduring someone falling out of love with it. It’s never had to suppress envy or hide a side of itself it hopes no one will find out. Grasp those feelings and channel them all into your art. Make people feel it too.
Look at cover bands or impersonators for example. They can devote their life to copying an artist, to the point where it is obsessive, where they can truly begin to believe that they are them. But without their life experiences or DNA composition, they simply cannot compete. They are forever in their shadow. Think of AI as a more talented imitator. Your essence can’t be replicated.
Immerse yourself in the mood of the times. Take influence from it and embody it in your work. AI will not have a feel of the zeitgeist that you can creatively combine with your personal experiences.
*Cue motivational movie-openings style riser music*
As much as it seems like it, you won’t be left behind. It’s not an ‘embrace it or die’ situation that most people are pitching. In fact, it’s the ones that chase the easy wins that will be doing the same years down the line with nothing to show for it.
It’s going to be easy to get caught in the trap of feeling a desperate overwhelm of competition against something that is growing faster than any human, but there’s no need.
In a world where people are looking for shortcuts, it’ll be even more rewarding and important to be the artist that spends every day mastering their craft. Don’t be fooled by the fast overnight successes you hear about on TikTok or in articles. Never lose sight of your long-term vision. The reason you started in the first place. With fast success comes an even faster decline.
If you do use AI, use it as an accompaniment, something that you’ve directly sought after because it’s helped with something that is in line with your wider vision. A deliberate choice.
Remember this: if you accumulate get fans, you’ll survive.
Life is going to have to become more of a show for you. Create a persona, distance yourself from your work and go to town on it. Be fearless in your creations and the story that you live out. Inject excitement into people’s life and compel them to follow your story as it unfolds.