Is 2023 the year that original compositions and AI-generated music will go head-to-head?

Is 2023 the year that original compositions and AI-generated music will go head-to-head?

AI has become a hot topic in the music industry. 

In the past week, its potential impact has been scrutinised by both Warner Music CEO Robert Kyncl and superstar DJ David Guetta (pictured at the BRITs), who revealed how he was able to replicate Eminem’s rapping using artificial intelligence. Guetta stressed that the experiment was not for commercial release.

Markus Schwarzer, is CEO of Cyanite, which provides AI-powered music tagging and search for the music industry, with clients including BMG, Nettwerk Music Group and Universal Music Solutions.

Here, Schwarzer, formerly a publicist for Lenny Kravitz, Daft Punk, Kings of Leon, says the industry needs to move fast to protect real music…

Nick Cave is clearly not a fan of AI-generated music. The singer-songwriter recently dubbed an attempt to use AI chatbot ChatGPT to impersonate his lyrics as "a grotesque mockery" and "a travesty". It’s one of many emerging examples of the musical artist responding with horror at the idea of technology aping their work.

Cave is likely to be even more dismayed when he finds out that there are platforms that can generate entire songs, and not just lyrics. But there are many others that are very excited about the potential for tech to take the place of artists.

The AI-generated music sector is moving quickly. Tencent Music Entertainment (TME) – the owner of China’s largest music streaming platforms – has created and released over 1,000 AI-generated tracks. And MENA-focused Spotify rival Anghami is claiming that it will soon become the first platform to host over 200,000 songs generated by AI.

In 2023, TV, movies, gaming and advertisers will fully realise the commercial benefits of AI-generated music. It’s easy to see the upside of this bespoke music that can be developed and manipulated at speed for very specific use, without any of the difficult and over-complicated discovery or licensing or rights issues or costs.

But there is a parallel stream of AI research that functions as an ally to promote original music rather than replace it: AI-based music recommendation. Some of these algorithms give users the same seamless search experience. It puts the spotlight back on original music’s big advantage: it’s impact on our mood. 

Impactful music moments

As Nick Cave has realised, AI-generated music is generally of a lower quality. It isn’t yet – and may never be – good enough without any human involvement to launch as commercial music that would be sought out by music fans in great numbers. And that means that the effectiveness of any particular sync application will never be as great as the real thing. 

Original music continues to provide the best opportunities to create impactful musical experiences. And that idea of creating impact is the key in 2023, because I predict that brands will be striving for increasingly powerful moments fuelled by music this year.

To illustrate this idea, I’d like to take you back a few years. It was during my studies at the Popakademie Baden Wuerttemberg, while studying a Masters in Music & Creative Industries, that I became fascinated with the intense power of music to elevate a situation when it perfectly fits a moment. 

We called this experience ‘music moments’, and it became the basis for my career-long fascination with the power of music to turn ordinary moments into special moments - ones that can be re-lived through a song much later. The idea inspired the company that we launched. And also, years later, the company that we are currently leading.

Markus Schwarzer

What has driven all of it is the sense that by matching the perfect music to every moment, we can all maximise the opportunities to enhance every moment of our lives. Brands are currently only really scratching the surface of what that means, but as new platforms like Web3 and the metaverse are explored by brands, they will seek ever-more innovative ways to create life-changing high-emotion moments online – and also in the real world – with music.

All of this is very much at odds with the lot of AI-generated music – this lower quality music results in lower impact and thus does not seem to be the stuff of the greatest music moments of our lives. Convenient? Yes. Life-changing? Certainly not. No, it seems as though the benefits are purely related to getting around the problems in the music business.

The music industry must catch up – and quickly

In a world where other media formats are advancing quickly, the music industry is struggling to keep pace. The fragmentation of global rights structures for music causes catalogue owners huge problems, for instance when providing soundtracks to global platforms such as Netflix. Consent for music use must be found separately for numerous countries and stakeholders, in a highly time-consuming and difficult process.

And there are other issues – the licensing models for new channels such as Web3, the highly decentralised market structures and the extremely opaque structures that are used in sync.

Even bigger is the gap when it comes to applicability of the music to a specific use case. AI music – essentially being bespoke – makes it tough for original music to compete as most music libraries lack good search algorithms. This makes the discovery of original music one-dimensional, complicated and time consuming. 

If handled correctly, AI music will only help to enhance the sheer brilliance of original music to create impactful moments

Markus Schwarzer

It’s this growing mismatch between the music industry and the quickly innovating world around it that is accelerating the lure of AI-generated music for creative directors. That’s why the music industry needs to move with the times if it wants to protect real music from replacement by AI-generated content.

Balancing AI music and the real thing

What I expect to happen is that creative directors and music supervisors will need to balance the benefits of both kinds of music, and define how and where they want to use both kinds. We may see a dual approach emerging. On the one hand, original music will be used for premium musical moments aimed at the life-enhancing experiences like national or global ad campaigns, artist partnerships, and so on. On the other, AI-generated tech will increasingly be used for incidental sound and background music in marketing assets of lower branding significance. 

If that’s the case, original music needs to get better at being aligned with that perfect moment. Sync needs to improve the way in which creative directors can take advantage of original music, to provide the best opportunities to create impactful musical experiences. AI cannot only create music, it can increase the accuracy with which we discover original music for a very particular purpose. By using it to navigate a catalogue quicker and more consistently, sync opportunities can be found more easily, and with better results.

Despite what Nick Cave thinks, there will be a role for AI-generated music in the years to come. But if handled correctly, it will only help to enhance the sheer brilliance of original music to create impactful moments. But the music business needs to move with the times to let that happen.  


PHOTO: JMEnternational 


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