The music industry is an ever-evolving sector, but with the advent of the 21st century, a new era of change has begun to emerge – artificial intelligence.
Although there are some concerns from those working in the industry, and especially DJs, that AI will start to take their jobs, others within the sector are excited about the idea that artificial intelligence could make music more collaborative, more dynamic and even more engaging for listeners.
For anyone who makes music, it’s unlikely that robots are going to be taking over their jobs any time soon, yet just as AI is pervading through other areas such as live dealer casinos, it is showing great potential in the industry to open up new opportunities and new artistic articulation possibilities. There’s a catch, however – music makers must learn to embrace artificial intelligence tools with an adventurous spirit.
We need only look back at the days when dance pioneers began embracing digital tools to see the exciting possibilities that advances in technology can hold for the sector. Those early pioneers seized the opportunity to experiment and to push the limits of what was possible to take music into a bright new future – something which lies at the core of all electronic music.
Has Electro Music Lost Its Way?
Some of the biggest names in the industry are already concerned that electro music has begun to lose its way. Originally focused on pushing boundaries and seeking out the futuristic, the genre is in real danger of simply turning into poor-quality pop music according to some of the original pioneers. So, has electro lost all connection with futurism, technology and science?
Many of the most innovative creators of electro music don’t believe that this is the case. In fact, they are still driven to create something that nobody has ever heard before – embodying the original spirit of the genre. AI-led electro music is at the forefront of this movement. Creators now need to step up, embrace the latest tech and learn how to use it to their advantage.
Embracing Technology In Electro
There’s nothing new about embracing the most cutting-edge advances in the electro music sphere. Even back in the 1950s the first ever computer-generated musical score was created by Lejaren Hiller. “The Lilac Suite” was blazing a trail that other artists soon followed. Four decades later, the Verbalizer AI app was developed by David Bowie – a randomized literary source material for creating lyrics.
Then in 2016, Sony create their AI Flow Machine to help write “Daddy’s Car”. While this song may have held little soul below its surface, the initial impressions were pretty convincing. In the EDM world too, Baauer has collaborated recently with Miguela Sousa, an artificial intelligence-invented Instagram influencer and the result was a hit called “Hate Me”. The sound may be rather generic, but in concept, the result is a pretty intriguing combination of human and machine talent, not to mention that it’s also been a great commercial success.
AI concepts have also been toying with artificial intelligence concepts. PROTO, their third album was co-written by Spawn, their AI baby, and includes a choir made up of both humans and AI voices. PROTO has a sound that is entirely unlike any other music out there today, and it’s certainly a futuristic one.
Their success is a strong positive example of the way in which AI can help and encourage brand new musical forms, and foster exciting new approaches to electro music.
The Negative Of AI In Electro Music
While AI holds a lot of exciting potential for the future of electro music, there is a darker side of the latest technology too. If music lovers and artists don’t rapidly embrace emerging technologies, they will be left behind by those with the essential tech knowledge. For each innovative collaboration and AI experiment, there will be many more commercial and cynical applications of the technology within the mainstream music world.
There is already a wealth of AI-based music software out there. Google Magenta, IDM Watson Beat and Amper are all programs which take vast amounts of data from recorded music over the generations and use it to create new hits. AI is already good enough to create generic “elevator-style” music, so isn’t it just a matter of time before it creates a top ten hit?
It’s this potential future that is causing concerns for musicians, and it’s possible that some jobs in the sector will be lost to robots. Music generated by artificial intelligence is already considered to be passable enough to be used on adverts or as backing music for broadcasts and videos. Call-holding music and jingles too will rapidly be handed over to AI creators. Surely it’s just a matter of time before this software develops the sophistication to create new pop hits. When this happens, songwriters, musicians and collaborators will lose both royalties and opportunities.
The Future Lies In Collaboration
Although the possibility of artificial intelligence taking over the music industry entirely is a worrying one, the likelihood is that the future will lie in collaboration. Music is already moving in co-creative ways, with experimentation being encouraged. Taryn Southern, singer on American Idol, already collaborates with artificial intelligence to create music that is entirely her own.
A UK company called AI Music is applying AI to understand activity, location, time and mood and then to create brand new versions of songs to suit. The company claims that its algorithms could possibly create up to thousands of versions of one song for a customized musical experience for each listener. People choose music based on their mood and activity, so AI Music’s software simply encourages experimentation and collaboration with users. Since original songs are being used, the musicians and writers still get recognition and royalties for a win/win situation all around.
We need only look at the photography sector to see how technology is working in collaboration with professionals in the industry. Smartphone AI software allows us all to take creative images, yet professional photographers haven’t gone out of business.
Instead of passively consuming music in the future, AI presents us all with the possibility of greater co-creative opportunities and dialogue being built up between fans and artists. When AI is explored, experimented with and applied effectively, it can take the electro music sector into the future with the exciting spirit of something unknown – the same spirit which OG producers embodied over three decades ago, at the time the movement’s seeds were being sown.
AI could well take music out of its existing cyclical tropes and, instead, allow creators and listeners alike to explore different aesthetics, mindsets, structures and approaches. Surely this can only be a progressive and positive thing?
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