Boardroom explores the implications of AI on music and how it could change the industry moving forward.
Is generative artificial intelligence music ethical?
That’s the question facing the music industry after a new hit, ‘Heart on My Sleeve,’ went viral this week. It featured the voices of Drake and The Weeknd, neither of whom had anything to do with the track.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard our favorite artists’ vocals on a track they didn’t voice themselves. David Guetta recently recreated Eminem’s voice using generative AI platforms. He aired the short snippet during a DJ set remixed with one of his own songs.
Drake took to Instagram early last week to speak out. “This is the final straw AI,” he wrote, after an AI-generated remix of Ice Spice’s “Munch” was distributed, featuring a verse by him. Rihanna and Kanye West have also fallen victim to AI-generated songs.
This new AI-generated jam featuring Drake and The Weeknd’s vocals feels a bit different, though, since it’s a full track.
There is a lot that goes into generative AI, but this instance begs the question: Will AI music become an acceptable trend, or will the music industry push platforms to steer clear of it?
Heart on My Stream
TikTok’s Ghostwriter977 ultimately took credit for “Heart on My Sleeve” on TikTok. They claim to have produced it by training a generative AI software on Drake and The Weeknd’s voices. They then distributed the song under the name Ghostwriter, and true to the name, their identity remains anonymous.
Spanning more than two minutes, “Heart on My Sleeve” centers on relationships between exes, mentioning notable celebs, including Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber, and 21 Savage. Non-Drake even drops lines about Metro Boomin’ making the beat. And, yes, Future’s infamous “If young Metro don’t trust you, I’m gon’ shoot you” line kicks off the track.
The Ghostwriter977 user wears a white sheet and black sunglasses in their original TikTok post that shared the song. They stated in the comments that they were “a ghostwriter for years and got paid close to nothing just for major labels to profit” and that “the future is here,” with generative AI music. The song attracted millions of streams on social media and music streaming platforms in the first couple of days. As of Saturday, it was up to 20 million streams across TikTok, Twitter, Spotify, YouTube, and Soundcloud.
After a short viral stint, major social media and streaming platforms removed Ghostwriter’s original posts for infringing content creation with generative AI. The sound has been removed from all of the creator’s videos on their TikTok account and within any video shared on the platform featuring the “Heart on My Sleeve” audio.
“This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Universal Music Group” is the message viewers see when they try to access the song via Ghostwriter’s YouTube channel. Still, there is power in the resharing biz, so the song is still floating around out there.
Restricting Generative AI
UMG pulled “Heart on My Sleeve” from platforms as quickly as it could, but it was already too late. The company believes music streaming platforms have a fundamental legal and ethical responsibility to prevent this from happening to artists.
Per the U.S. Copyright Office, copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner. “Heart on My Sleeve” is clearly copyright infringement, but it’s important to call out that Ghostwriter did write the original lyrics, which had to be fed into the generative AI software to create the song.
UMG is even calling on streaming platforms to block AI companies and platforms from accessing their music libraries. The music leader emailed streaming platforms, including Apple Music and Spotify, to ask them to prevent AI services from learning from their copyrighted songs, the Financial Times first reported.
“We have a moral and commercial responsibility to our artists to work to prevent the unauthorised use of their music and to stop platforms from ingesting content that violates the rights of artists and other creators,” a UMG spokesperson told the Financial Times. “We expect our platform partners will want to prevent their services from being used in ways that harm artists.”
On the flip side, UMG told Vice’s Motherboard that its success is due in part to embracing emerging technologies and that it’s been leveraging AI to explore innovations of its own. If record labels and music companies can leverage AI to create new sounds, then generative AI music creators should be able to do the same. We need parameters and restrictions, but we must focus more on how and if AI music should be distributed. Not the mere creation of it.
If streaming platforms do ban AI services from learning from copyrighted music, then what’s stopping industries from imposing similar restrictions on AI tech like ChatGPT and Bard AI? Artificial intelligence is an exploratory emerging technology that can only be successful with human help. If we don’t interact with AI, it doesn’t learn. If it doesn’t learn, it’s not successful. Humans then decide what to do with what AI learns, and ultimately, that’s the more important discussion here.
What’s Next for Music and AI
It’s unclear if UMG will file an official lawsuit against Ghostwriter, but the music company has been working overtime to keep “Heart on My Sleeve” offline. Neither Drake nor The Weeknd has commented on the track, but this likely won’t be the last we hear from Ghostwriter’s generative AI work.
The war on generative AI music began far before this debacle, but who is the battle really between? It’s hard to tell. But it’s clear that record labels are on one side, and AI music creators are on another.
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