music

One of the more impressive features of generative AI platforms is their ability to produce content that mimics a style. Ask Gemini for a poem in the style of Dr. Seuss, for example, and you’ll get a playful composition that explores fresh linguistic combinations. Ask DALL-E for a painting in the style of Claude Monet and you’ll get an entrancing image with loose brushstrokes that evoke movement with the interplay of light and shadows.

The process used to empower this capability, which involves training AI on an artist’s work, can also be used to mimic a singer’s vocal style. Train AI on several thousand hours worth of Bono’s songs, for instance, and it will eventually be able to provide a track with the U2 frontman singing whatever lyrics you provide.

Thus, it will likely not come as a surprise that both music artists and the labels who put out their songs are concerned about AI’s capability to clone a voice and the potential that exists for abusing that capability. Lainey Wilson, a recording artist who won a Grammy in 2024 for Best Country Album, recently shared her concerns before a US Congressional committee. She described it as having “your name, likeness, or voice ripped from you and used in ways you could never imagine and would never allow.”

Wilson’s testimony followed the introduction of a bill in the US House of Representatives aimed at limiting AI’s power to clone voices and other likenesses. Known as the “No Artificial Intelligence Fake Replicas and Unauthorized Duplications” Act, or No AI FRAUD Act, the bill cites the recent creation of a song that mimicked the recording artists Drake and The Weeknd as an example of how AI has “adversely affected individuals’ ability to protect their voice and likeness from misappropriation.”

The evolving concerns over AI’s intersection with music recording add fresh fodder to the debate over the best way to harness its potential while avoiding abuse.

Ownership and Compensation

The concerns raised by Wilson before Congress are at the center of the controversy surrounding the use of AI to clone musical artists. Many of Wilson’s fellow artists also believe AI-driven voices trained on their recordings are essentially no different than their own voices and, as such, should remain under their control. Whether or not the law supports that belief, however, has yet to be established.

Compensation for the use of voice clones is an issue that interests both singers and their labels. A recent report from ABC News explored a scenario in which an independent artist wrote and recorded an original song, but used AI to create an Adele clone to perform lead vocals. Determining how the inclusion of Adele’s voice clone in the project affects ownership is a complex issue that remains unsettled.

Misrepresentation and Ethics

Wilson’s testimony also points to the fear of AI clones being used to position singers and other celebrities as promoters without their permission. The No AI FRAUD bill specifically refers to such a situation in which an AI-generated likeness of Tom Hanks was used to promote a dental plan without the actor’s permission.

Proper ethics would require several key regulatory steps to be taken before a cloned voice could be used, starting with obtaining informed consent from the artist. Ethical handling of the situation would also require full disclosure to be given to listeners when a voice is a clone of an artist and not the actual artist. Providing fair compensation to the artist(s) whose likeliness is used would be another ethical consideration to address.

Unfair Competition for Human Artists

In early 2024, Universal Music Group made a decision that revealed another key concern in the clash between AI and the music industry. Universal pulled all of its artists’ music from TikTok, claiming the social media platform was “refusing to respond to our concerns about AI depriving songwriters of fair compensation.” TikTok, which provides its users with both AI-generated songs and songs composed by human artists, replied by saying Universal was putting “their own greed above the interests of their artists and songwriters.”

Universal’s complaint reveals its fears that the proliferation of AI-generated music, if left unchecked, will devalue the contributions of human artists, while TikTok’s response suggests that the music industry’s business model needs to evolve with the times. Finding a balance that allows musicians to be fairly compensated without hampering the development of AI or its use by businesses is the challenge that stands before all parties involved.

 

Ed Watal is an AI Thought Leader and Technology Investor. One of his key projects includes BigParser (an Ethical AI Platform and Data Commons for the World). He is also the founder of Intellibus, an INC 5000 “Top 100 Fastest Growing Software Firm” in the USA, and the lead faculty of AI Masterclass — a joint operation between NYU SPS and Intellibus. Forbes Books is collaborating with Ed on a seminal book on our AI Future. Board Members and C-level executives at the World’s Largest Financial Institutions rely on him for strategic transformational advice. Ed has been featured on Fox News, QR Calgary Radio, and Medical Device News.