By now, you have some sense of what AI is or at least what it appears to be capable of in terms of analyzing, extrapolating and then simulating the musical works of humans.
Sadly, there is no shortage of self-proclaimed experts making cynical predictions about the future of music. Some suggest that artists, engineers and producers will be obsolete in a decade. If you believe that, I have some beach-front property in Oklahoma to sell you.
AI mastering has been a thing since the 2010s. A composer and I tried it out once on a song we were commissioned to create for Fashionweek. The result was acceptable for the application and we ran with it but from an artistic or emotional perspective, it was garbage.
Now writing this in 2023, I don’t hear much of any improvement in the technology — and perhaps that is because it is still evaluating and simulating more and more DIY mastering which I hear in many smaller-budget commercial releases. Where’s the outrage?
AI has a place in music production but works best when limited to very specific tasks in a context created and managed by humans. For example, my assistant and I use one plugin that can analyze a track and dynamically adjust to changing frequencies or notes.
Can AI-driven software mix a song? Technically, yes but can it interpret the artist’s feelings along the way and will it spontaneously experiment? Not a chance. Will it know how to comp takes to achieve the desired emotion? Will it retain artistic imperfections? No.
All of that to say that AI could no more be spontaneous or use intuition in mixing than it could sit with an artist in tears while telling the story behind a song or work with that artist in exploring possibilities through the pre-production process.
So, what about the future of songwriters and recording artists? We all know that there are only so many possible combinations of notes and chords to start with. We can already hear countless examples of intentional and unintentional plagiarism in music. What’s new?
In other words, AI will go on doing what many artists are already doing and what the masses keep consuming: regurgitating the popular progressions of the month, copying the same vocal melodies, using the same 5 virtual instruments and so on.
Until AI can get up on stage at an open-mic with an acoustic guitar and leave the audience breathless or evoke the right emotions and performances out of an artist in the studio, those of us striving to create thoughtful, inspired, original music have nothing to fear.