Music ex machina—Innovation and Transformation Within the Music Industry

By Laura Lum, Senior Research Manager, 2CV

Music AI
Image by kjpargeter on Freepik

Introduction

AI has disrupted the 21st century music industry and continues to influence the future in many ways. With AI, the friction in transforming ideas into a creative work has essentially disappeared when barriers in creation and distribution are lowered. Anyone can list their music on streaming services for free, and the playing field of who can be an artist is also greatly blurred. This poses opportunities and challenges for brands, music publishers and streaming platforms alike. Its impact is two- fold, where there are paradigm shifts in how consumers experience, and consume music.

Role of AI in personalisation and engagement

Music is an incredibly personal art form—not just in our tastes, but also in the moods and occasions that shape our listening behaviours. Spotify is an active leader in utilizing AI to analyse user behaviours to support highly personalized experiences of music.

‘Discover Weekly’, a playlist updated every Monday with 30 personalized songs, uses a combination of collaborative filtering and natural language processing—listening patterns and similarities are identified across millions of users, combined with analysed text data from the web (i.e., blogs, reviews, lyrics) to learn about the attributes and meanings of different songs, artists and genres.

Spotify’s most recent innovations include Spotify DJ and Song Psychic. Spotify DJ uses generative AI and voice synthesis, to provide a curated selection of music with AI-generated commentary about tracks and artists. DJ selects songs that match users’ preferences, then uses OpenAI technology to generate facts about music, artists or genre. To create a realistic voice from text, DJ uses a dynamic AI voice platform from Sonantic, which was acquired by Spotify last year. Song Psychic is a follow-up to the success of Spotify’s personalised year-end ‘Wrapped’; the Song Psychic is Spotify’s latest foray that combines semantics and social insights—matching specific keywords with song titles and a set of listed questions amongst different categories (i.e., career, relationships, lunch, etc).

Spotify’s round of layoffs in 2023 is a sign of their commitment for further AI investments. In November 2023, Spotify unveiled a partnership with Google Cloud to overhaul how the platform recommends audiobooks and podcasts through its use of one of Google Cloud’s language models, Vertex AI Search. With the use of large language models (LLMs) to enhance personalization, improve recommendations and ensure they are reflective of user interests by understanding entire text/videos, there are hopes that the cost-intensiveness of LLMs over basic predictive models will bear fruit in terms of stronger engagement—and monetization.

The AI revolution in music creation

For creators, the intersection of AI and music is seen as a double-edged sword, triggering both excitement—and alarm.

AI tools offer new ways to collaborate for musicians and producers, creating music and predicting trends based on listener data. Splice Create employs AI to sift through its 1.9 million samples, curating them based on user-selected genres. It suggests four compatible loops from its library, allowing users to modify and layer up to eight loops categorized by sound type. Izotope, an industry favourite, harnesses AI to provide mastering and mixing insights. It analyses tracks to give tailored suggestions, ensuring each piece is radio-ready.

On the flip side, the ethical debate surrounding AI has become complex, forcing us to rethink traditional notions of creativity, ownership and attribution.

Already in 2023, over 10 different music AI models have been released by independent researchers and big-tech companies like Google and ByteDance, allowing users to generate custom tracks in mere seconds using a text prompt. Thanks to off-the-shelf music AI tools like Boomy, hundreds of thousands of AI-generated songs are now listed on streaming services.

Musical artist, Ghostwriter, was best known for creating ´Heart on My Sleeve,´ a song that employed AI voice filters to imitate Drake and The Weeknd’s voices with shocking precision—and without their consent! When it was posted to TikTok in the spring of 2023, it became one of the biggest music stories of the year.

The tricky thing is that AI-generated content (i.e., lyrics, album art and music) cannot be protected by copyright because protection requires ‘authorship’ by a human. This dilemma isn’t unique to the music industry, but is a cross-category debate that is the norm for any AI legislative discussion.

Does AI replace the creative process—or does it challenge it? How much of true artistic expression arises from algorithms and machine learning? The push and pull between innovation and tradition, and the dynamics between man and machine will be explored for many years to come.

AI shaping the live music experience

Virtual reality (VR) and AI technologies used to create immersive concert experiences are nothing new or groundbreaking, but still, something worth thinking about.

In-game concerts were all the rage during COVID-19. From Fortnite to Minecraft, popular virtual spaces hosted gatherings for thousands of music and gaming fans alike. Virtual worlds became a haven for many to experience the collective, galvanising effervescence of live music. Notable concerts include performances by Arianda Grande and Travis Scott which utilise mini games and interactive elements like quests and game items.

AI technologies have continued to stay relevant beyond the pandemic. The Elvis Evolution Tour set to take place in London in November 2024 utilises holographic projection, augmented reality, live theatre and multi-sensory effects to bring Elvis back to life! The tour launch has been a resounding success, with tickets sold out months ahead of schedule.

There is potential for AI and VR technologies to expand on fan engagement, creating immersive experiences for fans to enjoy music both live and in the comfort of their homes.

The AI chorus

The presence of AI is not just a trend, but a transformative wave for the music industry. AI can be a great tool for up-and-coming artists who can’t afford fancy equipment and music producers/sound engineers. Rather than harming the music industry, AI has a positive role to play by lowering barriers for people being active participants in the music economy, and democratizing music creation. On the consumer side, there are vast business opportunities to better understand channels, fandoms, listening and streaming attitudes and behaviours.

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