As certain artists continue to embrace artificial intelligence (AI), Sting warns that the coming years will see a “battle” for “the building blocks of music.”
During a recent BBC session, the 71-year-old singer-songwriter shared his less than optimistic view of the long-term role of AI in the industry – as well as the technology’s ability to produce emotionally impactful tracks. Of course, the former Police frontman’s comments come at a time when bands like Grimes, The Pocket Gods and David Guetta are, to varying degrees, trying to capitalize on artificial intelligence. With the blessing of the artist of the same name, Grimes AI titles are pouring into YouTube.
Now, not only are a few sound-alike releases making waves – “AI Drake” has spawned several albums and singles that have collectively garnered a significant number of plays – and AI is also being used to generate millions upon millions of supposedly original works. (Listeners have noted that many of the latter sound extremely similar.)
On the regulation and takedown side, the European Union is preparing a sweeping “AI Act,” US lawmakers have expressed interest in introducing similar legislation, and the major labels are reportedly developing a system that will quickly ban unauthorized sound-alike tracks from would remove streaming platforms.
As he prepares to accept an Ivor Novello fellowship award at a ceremony sponsored by Amazon Music tonight, ‘Every Breath You Take’ songwriter Sting has made it clear he believes there’s ‘going to be a struggle , in which we all have to fight “in the next few years” to defend “our human capital against AI”.
“The building blocks of music belong to us, the people,” One Fine Day headliner Sting told the BBC – while acknowledging that if used and regulated carefully, AI could potentially bring creative benefits .
“The tools are useful, but we have to control them,” explained the 17-time Grammy winner, who sold his song rights to Universal Music Publishing Group in early 2022. “I don’t think we can allow the machines to do that.” just take over. We have to be careful.”
And as mentioned earlier, Sting also indicated that he’s not convinced of the AI’s ability to convey complex emotions in music.
“I get bored instantly when I see a computer-generated image,” Sting shared during the event BBC discussion. “I imagine I will feel the same when it comes to AI making music. Maybe it works for electronic dance music. But with songs that express emotions, I don’t think that will affect me.”
Aside from that debate over whether AI (which, of course, is still in its infancy) can produce works that resonate with the listener, the songs attract no shortage of streaming performances and, according to critics, divert attention from real artists’ planning tours and pay bills.
Finally, although the amount of AI songs (and the number of streams associated with them) is growing rapidly, it’s worth noting that non-music audio has been prominent on platforms like Spotify for a while. For example, according to one study, a Swedish indie label secured a staggering 2.1 billion streams on Spotify between 2017 and October 2022 with “White Noise” uploads.