Zac Smith

@zachary.ft.smith

Artificial Intelligence In the Music Industry

IBM Watson assists Alex Da Kid with his latest single “Not Easy”

The artificial intelligence (AI) industry is expected to be worth more than $70 billion by 2020 and will undoubtedly influence our lifestyles and the way we consume data. Put simply, AI is a field of computer science that enables computers to do things that humans would consider “intelligent”.

But what does this mean for the music industry?

Well, companies such as Shazam have been using AI since their founding embedded in their “fingerprint” technology. Shazam holds an extensive catalogue of songs with detailed “spectrograms” that contain the various frequencies that a song emits. Once the user tags a song, the application will take that signal, cross reference it with their database and return a match. Artificial intelligence is used in this instance to take data that would be useless by itself (the song signal), provide context, and match it with their database to produce something that is useful for the user.

Now we are currently in an era where the possibility of these technologies impacting the creation of music on a global scale is ever present. In September, Sony released two songs composed using their newly developed artificial intelligence system “Flow Machines”. The below song “Daddy’s Car” was composed to follow the musical motif of The Beatles:

More recently, Grammy award-winning producer Alex Da Kid partnered with IBM Watson to create his newest single “Not Easy”:

Watson sifted through five years of unstructured culture data, as well as the lyrics of the top 100 songs for each week within the five year frame to establish the emotional sentiment behind each song. Watson then analysed the instrumentation, rhythm and pitch which was then given to Alex Da Kid to experiment with.

This begs the question, will human originality and creativity wane away as the door to artificially intelligent music opens up? Well, that depends on who you ask. The most logical response in the meantime is to view machines as instruments who only aid the production. There is no doubt that applying artificial intelligence to production will save a lot of time, or even provide the building blocks aiding first time writers or producers.

The question as far as copyright is concerned is if a machine composes a song in its entirety, who owns the copyright? This is something that will seep into the consciousness of publishers, record labels and collection societies, if it hasn’t already.

But could we one day see IBM or Google on the song credits? It’s something to think about…

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