legendary Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May predicts that 2023 will mark the culmination of an era where discerning whether a song was crafted by a human or artificial intelligence (AI) becomes nearly impossible. May explores the growing importance of AI in the music industry in a conversation with Rosie Bennet for the Fret Not podcast. May expresses both interest and anxiety about the significant impact AI is expected to have.
The AI onslaught – A dystopian melody?
Brian May’s concern centers around AI’s emerging ability to extract and manipulate talents, leaving listeners questioning the authenticity of musical creations. The catalyst for this concern was the viral sensation “Heart on My Sleeve,” an AI-generated track by the pseudonymous TikTok user Ghostwriter. May underscores the song’s convincing recreation of Drake’s and The Weeknd’s vocal styles, raising the intriguing possibility of AI-generated music securing Grammy consideration.
May, renowned for his dual expertise in music and astrophysics, delves into the contentious debate sparked by AI’s utilization in the industry. The AI community witnessed a schism, with some labeling AI as a “plagiarism machine” due to its controversial reliance on published works for training models. May acknowledges the fears of writers and artists, emphasizing that creativity is inherently influenced by external stimuli and sources.
Humans vs. AI in a sonic battle
Looking ahead, May envisions a trajectory where AI evolves from merely creating music to performing its compositions. He anticipates a future where AI not only plays but also emotionally connects with the music it generates, potentially rendering human involvement obsolete. The guitarist warns that this paradigm shift will occur sooner than expected, and the implications for the industry will be profound.
Meanwhile, the recording industry grapples with the dichotomy of AI’s impact. Musicians such as Disclosure and even iconic bands like The Beatles have embraced AI, using it to create new music and even resurrect deceased vocalists for one last song. The Recording Academy, responding to the ongoing discourse, announced that songs created with AI assistance would be eligible for the 2024 Grammy Awards, but with a caveat—those predominantly or entirely AI-generated, like “Heart on My Sleeve,” would not be considered.
Artists’ ethical dilemma
The ethical implications of using AI in the creative process have not escaped the scrutiny of prominent musicians. Nick Cave, a fellow legendary rocker, vehemently criticized artists leveraging ChatGPT for its convenience, asserting that it erodes the essence of creative struggle and diminishes the collective human spirit. Cave contends that the ease of AI usage neglects the intrinsic connection between creative endeavors and the shared human experience, challenging the very soul and spirit of humanity.
As the debate over the role of AI in music creation intensifies, Brian May’s prophecy of 2023 being the swan song for human-authored music hangs in the air. The clash between AI and human creativity raises profound questions about authenticity, inspiration, and the essence of artistic expression. In a landscape on the cusp of a sonic revolution, the pivotal question remains—will the music industry’s embrace of AI lead to a harmonious future, or will it be a dissonant symphony that echoes the erosion of the human touch in the melodies we hold dear?