AI is learning to compose music, but it remains to be seen whether it can write hit songs.

Computers Can Compose Music, But Drawbacks Make It Unlikely Humans Will Be Replaced

Of all the workers worrying about being replaced by robots, musicians and songwriters are a surprising group that’s next in line. AI is now not only performing music, but it is writing it and singing it as well.

A story from the website asked Prof. Nick Bryan-Kinns, director of the Media and Arts Technology Centre at Queen Mary University of London, and professor of Interaction Design, whether AI is the next big thing in music. He is also a co-investigator at the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in AI for Music, and a senior member of the Association for Computing Machinery.

Thomas Ling wrote the article and interview with Prof. Bryan-Kinns and he started it rather pointedly:

“Take a hike, Bieber. Step aside, Gaga. And watch out, Sheeran. Artificial intelligence is here and it’s coming for your jobs.”

That’s, at least, what you might think after considering the ever-growing sophistication of AI-generated music.

While the concept of machine-composed music has been around since the 1800s (computing pioneer Ada Lovelace was one of the first to write about the topic), the fantasy has become reality in the past decade, with musicians such as Francois Pachet creating entire albums co-written by AI.

There are international song contests where algorithms compete and create for human ears to judge.

And the Professor asked if AI has its own type of music that it personally enjoys?  Some have even used AI to create “new” music from the likes of Amy Winehouse, Mozart, and Nirvana, feeding their back catalog into a neural network.

The Professor goes through several scenarios and gives his considered opinion on AI music. Spoiler alert. In the end, the Professor says musicians will still have jobs long into the future.

Making Musical Partners with AI

Professor Bryan-Kinns thinks the blending of AI and human writing is a strong possibility.

“At the moment, AI is like a tool. But in the near future, it could be more of a co-creator. Maybe it could help you out by suggesting some basslines, or give you some ideas for different lyrics that you might want to use based on the genres that you like.

“I think the co-creation between the AI and the human – as equal creative partners – will be the really valuable part of this.”

The Professor notes that the amount of energy used by AI to make the music is far greater than for other computer uses, making it costly, like the power used for creating a blockchain currency. If you’re trying to train AI to analyze the last 20 years of pop music, for instance, you’re chucking all that data in there and then using a lot of electricity to do the analysis and to generate a new song.

“At some point, we’re going to have to question whether the environmental impact is worth this new music.”

Ling’s article is a fun read and filled with interesting notions about AI making and performing music. If your a musician or just a fan, look for AI to create new genres of music and hopefully we can all still dance to it.