The Ethical Quandary of AI-Created Music

January, 25 2024

The Ethical Quandary of AI-Created Music

In recent years, the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) in music creation has sparked both fascination and concern within the music industry. While AI-generated music showcases remarkable advancements in technology, there is a growing discourse on the ethical implications it poses, particularly in its potential threat to human creatives and the authenticity of real music. 

The Threat to Human Creatives

1. Erosion of Artistic Authenticity

AI-generated music, by its nature, lacks the personal experiences, emotions, and authenticity that human creatives bring to their work. The risk here is the potential dilution of the rich, nuanced expressions that define the essence of genuine artistic creations. Music has always been a powerful medium for conveying human experiences and emotions, and the fear is that AI-generated compositions may fall short in capturing the depth and soul that characterize true human expression.

2. Homogenization of Musical Styles

AI algorithms are often trained on vast datasets of existing music, which can inadvertently lead to a homogenization of musical styles. Human creativity thrives on diversity, experimentation, and the fusion of varied influences. The concern arises when AI, in an attempt to replicate successful patterns, inadvertently stifles the unique and diverse voices that define the rich tapestry of the music industry.

3. Threat to Artistic Careers

As AI-generated music becomes more sophisticated, there are concerns about its impact on the careers of human musicians and composers. If AI can efficiently produce music that resonates with audiences, it may lead to a reduced demand for human creative input, potentially jeopardizing the livelihoods of many artists.

The Threat to Real Music and Musicians

1. Diminished Value of Originality

AI-generated compositions, while impressive in their technical execution, may contribute to a devaluation of the concept of originality in music. The emphasis on novelty and innovation is integral to the evolution of musical genres, and the rise of AI-generated music could shift the focus away from appreciating the unique contributions of human artists.

2. Challenges to Copyright and Intellectual Property

The integration of AI in music creation poses challenges to the traditional notions of copyright and intellectual property. Determining ownership of AI-generated works becomes complex, leading to potential disputes over royalties and rights. This legal gray area poses a significant threat to artists and labels seeking to protect their creations in an era where machines play an active role in the creative process.

Impact on Artists and Labels

1. Striking a Balance

Artists find themselves at a crossroads, navigating the fine line between leveraging AI as a tool for creative enhancement and preserving the authenticity of their craft. The challenge lies in embracing technological advancements without compromising the unique qualities that make human-created music so profound.

2. Ethical Dilemmas for Labels

Record labels grapple with ethical dilemmas as they explore the integration of AI-generated music. While AI offers opportunities for efficiency and market differentiation, labels must weigh these benefits against the potential backlash from artists and the ethical implications of prioritizing machine-generated content over human creativity.

Industry Impact

1. Endel's AI-Generated Album

Endel, an AI-driven music platform, gained attention for creating an entire album titled "Clear Night" that claimed to enhance relaxation and focus. The success of this AI-generated album raised eyebrows and sparked debates about the potential commercial viability of machine-created music. Endel then partnered with musician James Blake where the AI took portions of his stems to create two full albums. The albums were distributed as co-releases between Blake and Endel. Endel continued to partner with artists such as Grimes, and Miguel before officially “announc(ing) a first of its kind strategic relationship” with Universal Music Group in May 2023. The idea is that Endel can turn UMG’s artist’s music into soundscape for different moods, and situations (i.e sleeping, working out, studying), though many remain skeptical and cautious of what a relationship like this could turn into. 

2. Unfair Advantages

While the debate over the ethics and issues surrounding AI royalties in the music industry continues, it's crucial to highlight the unfair advantage AI creators possess over their human counterparts. Endel, for instance, has its own Spotify profile featuring a few thousand songs uploaded in the past two years alone. The pressing question emerges: Can humans sustain and keep pace with AI's prolific output? 
If AI consistently generates and releases high-quality music on digital streaming platforms (DSPs), the companies behind these software systems stand to benefit in multiple ways. Firstly, the continuous output is likely to trigger Spotify algorithms, enhancing the visibility of AI-generated music. And with the potential for AI to create an endless stream of music, it's inevitable that, at some point, it may produce a consumer's favorite song. This raises a critical question: Is it fair for AI-generated Spotify streams to be compensated on par with those of human creators?
When AI-generated songs secure positions on playlists, they occupy slots that could otherwise go to hardworking artists, leading to a loss of opportunities and revenue for human creators. In a conversation with Ari Herstand, Oleg Stavitsky, the co-founder of Endel, defends this stance by asserting, "We have actual hardworking engineers that are very talented. I believe that engineers are the new artists - I wrote an Op-Ed where I stated that I very much believe that in the next few years, we are going to see a software engineer win a Grammy."
From a creator's perspective, some view this as a battle between profit-driven tech companies and authentic creatives.

Conclusion: Navigating the Harmony of Innovation and Ethics

As the music industry continues to grapple with the integration of AI, finding a harmonious balance between innovation and ethics becomes paramount. While AI-generated music showcases technical prowess and the ability to capture certain musical styles, it poses a formidable risk to human creatives, authenticity, and the essence of real music.

Artists, labels, and industry stakeholders must engage in thoughtful discussions to establish ethical guidelines that safeguard the unique contributions of human musicians. It is crucial to harness the potential of AI while preserving the authenticity and emotional resonance that define the true artistry of music. The future of the industry depends on a careful navigation of the ethical challenges posed by AI-created music, ensuring that human creativity remains at the forefront of musical innovation.