The Future of AI in the Music Business
Just this past month, Google’s Magenta and PAIR teams created a Google Doodle which celebrated Johann Sebastian Bach’s 333rd birthday. The Doodle, which lets users create their own music by using machine learning to harmonize melodies, analysed 306 of Bach’s original chorale harmonizations to create a tune with the user’s notes. Not only does The Doodle celebrate one of music’s greatest minds, but it brings to question an issue the industry needs to address: how will advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) impact artists, songwriters, producers, and engineers.
Generally speaking, AI is shifting the way businesses think about work, their day-to-day operations, and overall business models. For instance, in Deloitte’s most recent State of AI in The Enterprise Report, AI adoption grew globally by five per cent from 2017 to 2018, putting the overall adoption rate at around 63 per cent. The same report also found that 82 per cent of companies with AI programs or products have gained a financial return from their AI investments. The reason behind investing in AI is simple: automate tasks to cut costs and increase revenue. This rationale makes sense when an organization is talking about using cognitive technologies to automate tedious tasks. But should AI create products rather than complete tasks, the lines between "human roles" and machines become controversially blurred.
Why Are Labels Interested In Creative AI?
To understand why labels are adopting AI in the creative process, it’s important to first understand the fundamentals of how labels traditionally make their money. Let's imagine a song in a given quarter pays out $100,000 gross revenue. With the label taking about 30 per cent of that revenue, on average they will make around $30,000 while paying the remaining 70 per cent out to the appropriate rights holders. Since the consumption model of music is shifting to a fully digitalized streaming economy, labels need to not only reinvent their revenue pipelines but also reshape the production of their main products which remain centered around the recording industry.
Now, imagine a piece of AI software that could produce a record for half the man power and far fewer upfront costs and still generate just as much revenue. This idea isn't so far fetched. Just this past month, Warner Music Group signed sound startup Endel, which uses AI to make personalized audio tracks aimed at boosting people’s mood and productivity. The algorithm powering the application was signed to a 20 album deal covering both distribution and publishing. Although the music is certainly not Billboard Top 100 material, this signed piece of code could signal a future where artists and software become part of the same roster.
So What Should Artists Do Next?
There is no question that the jobs of songwriters, producers, engineers, and artists will be augmented as AI continues to integrate itself inside music's creative sphere. For instance, according to a new report from the World Economic Forum, machines and algorithms in the workplace are expected to create 133 million new roles, but cause 75 million jobs to be displaced by 2022. If you’ve done your math, you’ve calculated the growth of AI could create 58 million net new jobs in the next few years. This may give a glimpse into the music industry of the future, where artists and other creatives could have to work alongside machines creatively. The good news is that through each technological revolution, jobs have historically gotten more productive and businesses have adjusted. Take recording studios, for instance. Before the days of SoundCloud, GarageBand and Voice Memos, record labels used to own most of the studio facilities. This was a significant barrier for people who wanted to record and distribute their music as these studios required a lot of space, people, and physical equipment.
Now, plenty of professional-level Digital Audio Workspaces, like FL Studio, Ableton, and Logic, are available for just a few hundred dollars. Samples and loops are reasonably priced or even free, giving artists an endless supply of source materials that can be tweaked and manipulated in every way imaginable. Technology ultimately allowed for more creativity, and AI will likely have the same effect. If software can help a songwriter write a better song or a producer rework a record, why not do it? AI should be embraced by artists and other creatives as a tool to make the best music possible.
AI is slowly changing the way artists think about music. For the industry as a whole, AI tools hold out the promise of more efficient, more productive, creative and more streamlined operations, and better-informed decision making. As more labels sign AI software to their roster, the industry will continue to evolve, soon become a collaborative environment where man and machine work together to make the next set of great hits.