One of my favorite things about the music industry is that it is in constant motion, forever transforming to the beat of technology and innovation. But culture eats technology for breakfast, and when you mix the two, you get magic: music.
As the business evolves, it’s important to take a closer look at the impact of Artificial Intelligence on music culture as a whole. While the potential for increased efficiency, accuracy, and profitability is tempting, it also raises valid fears about job displacement, data privacy, and losing the magic that is the very essence of song creation.
The ability that AI has to process information is astronomical, and so is the amount of music coming out. The floodgates are open, with 100,000 tracks purportedly pushed out daily on DSPs like Spotify, Apple Music and SoundCloud. If each song were three minutes, that would mean 300,000 minutes of music every single day. To put this in perspective, if one were to listen to all of this music without stopping, it would take a superhuman feat of over 200 days of nonstop playing, 24 hours a day, just to hear all the new songs on a Friday!
This monumental task is literally impossible for a single person to execute, yet it takes seconds for artificial intelligence to wade through all that music. Tools like AI A&R powered by HITLAB give rights-holders the ability to process the data from 80,000 minutes of listening time in less than a minute. This gives us quicker insights into the best songs to release, with whom to collaborate or even which tracks stand the best chance at going viral.
Google recently announced MusicLM, which has the ability to read samples and manipulate them. It’s arrival caused some debate. Likewise, production software Soundful.com allows anyone to become a super producer by generating high quality beats in seconds. The growth of OpenAI’s CHAT GPT, which gained 100 million users in just two months, highlights the vast potential of AI and its ability to augment human behavior.
These tools are game-changers for the music industry and signal a watershed moment that will help artists, producers and music executives save time and optimize the creative process.
But with this new technology come new questions like: is a masterpiece subjective? Can AI create a hit or a cool new sound using data? Does it matter who or what creates that hit? And what about instincts, soulfulness and human touch? Where does gut fit in? These are all issues that should be considered, especially as data continues to be the main driver in this new music industry, and we come to grips with the reality that the not-too-distant future may see one million songs released per day.
At the Spotify party during Grammy weekend, I found myself in a conversation with a dear friend and prominent music industry CEO. He had a worried look on his face, like he had just stumbled upon a conspiracy theory. He said: “You know what my biggest fear is, brother? That some random guy, sitting on his couch, eating chips, and drinking soda, will create the next big algorithmic AI generated hit, and the true geniuses of our industry will be put out of business.’”
I couldn’t help but meditate on the thought. I mean, the idea of someone dominating the music charts, just by pressing a few buttons, has happened before. However, I see that scenario as the exception, not the norm. The power of human creativity and collaboration will always be king. Sure, AI has the ability to read and manipulate music samples, but it doesn’t have the emotional connection that humans do. It’s the human touch, the passion and soul, that sets an evergreen hit song apart from a flop. And that’s something that technology can never replace.
The true power of AI is in collaboration. I used AI A&R powered by HITLAB to identify the potential of a viral moment for Def Jam recording artist Trinidad Cardona. Through a scan of viral sounds we liked on TikTok, we noticed one of the songs had a higher score than the others. All of the tracks were trending on TikTok but this one — “Fayya Beat” — was special but it had no vocals or lyrics. We presented that track to Trinidad Cardona, and he and his friends wrote the song “Love Me Back” to it.
The labels caught on to the virality of the track and the producer, Robinson, was signed to APG. A clip of Trinidad’s version started going on TikTok and the song was then released on Def Jam. Now, “Love Me Back” has garnered over 250 million streams across platforms, and became a viral sensation for Trinidad.
This real-time case study showed me firsthand the true potential of AI as a tool to identify magic. The impact AI will have on our business and society at large has yet to be determined, but one thing is for sure: it’s an exciting time to be a part of the industry, and to see where technology and innovation will lead us next.
Nick Jarjour manages the hitmaker Starrah, is CEO of JarjourCo Inc. and the former global head of song management for Hipgnosis Songs Fund. Follow him on Instagram at @nickjarjour.