AI in the music industry: Friend or foe?

Exploring the implications of “Heart on My Sleeve”

On first listen, the new viral song “Heart on My Sleeve” sounds like a collaboration between artists Drake and The Weeknd. However, artist Ghostwriter actually created the vocals with AI.

Ghostwriter claims that he was a ghost writer for years but hardly made any profits under unfair labels. Using Drake’s voice allowed his writing and production to get the recognition he feels he deserves.

When fans mistakenly believed the song was Drake’s, one may question how AI will impact the future of music. Although some feel AI poses a threat to artistry as we know it, I see AI as a tool to help artists rather than to replace them.

I understand why some are worried. This song is similar enough to Drake’s authentic work to provoke the fear in artists and labels that they can be easily replaced and emulated. Some even speculated that Drake and The Weeknd created the song and used this narrative as an advertising stunt.

This seems to not be the case, however. Within a few days of this song circulating the Internet and attracting millions of listeners, record label Universal Music Group has demanded the song be pulled from streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music and even TikTok. Some speculate UMC will take legal action.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, UMG said “Heart on My Sleeve” was “infringing content created with generative AI.”

Some Drake fans, however, claim this song is overhyped and not comparable to his authentic music. Also, others argue that The Weeknd’s feature on this track is not as accurate sounding as compared to Drake’s. Still, however, this song’s ability to create enough fear and concern within UMC means it is imposing threats to and shaking up the industry.

When this song had already been streamed more than 18 million times across Twitter and TikTok within 48 hours and 600,000 times on Spotify throughout the mere few days it was on the app, it became obvious that many fans of Drake’s music are more loyal to his sound than to him as an artist.

Some listeners on TikTok are even claiming, “We don’t need celebrities anymore.”

Although I initially felt nervous that this implies a future of human-less music, I believe that most are giving AI more credit than it necessarily deserves. Current AI is nothing without human input.

In this circumstance, the only thing that makes this song an “AI song” is that AI was used to make the vocals sound like Drake and The Weeknd. Ghostwriter likely wrote, produced and recorded the track.

For this reason, I feel that AI is a tool rather than a threat. AI cannot yet create original music and art with such precision in the way a human can. It can, however, make tedious tasks easier or elevate the piece in a way that is not possible without it.

In animation, it can help automate the creative process. In writing, it can help authors develop story ideas. In traditional art, it can provide references and help with colorization. In music, it can allow artists to use instruments they may not know how to play, or in Ghostwriter’s case, use a voice that he does not have.

Further, AI software allowed Ghostwriter to make an artistic statement about how the music industry has been unfair to him and so many other smaller, underpaid artists, and whether he intended this or not, he made a statement about how inauthentic and profit-driven the modern music industry has become.

Ghostwriter was able to accurately create a song that sounds like it was created by one of the most popular artists in the industry simply by using a basic piano loop over 808s and throwing the lackluster vocals he recorded into an AI. The fact that this formula is so easy to replicate and reproduce suggests that perhaps AI is not the monster making music superficial, but rather, humans are the ones already doing so.

Going forward, I think there is no denying that AI will become an integral part of the industry, no matter how much labels, consumers, or even artists try to reject it.

According to Fox News Digital, UMC claims they are beginning to use AI to assist in music creation. Although I think a future of music creation using AI is inevitable and revolutionary, it is important to consider the ethics of AI use in music.

I do not necessarily believe that an unknown artist like Ghostwriter ripping off an artist as rich and established as Drake is unethical. However, I do worry that AI can potentially allow for larger artists and labels to more easily rip off smaller less established artists.

Further, I fear that AI will be used to continue to profit off dead musicians. Labels already profit from dead artists like XXXTentacion and Juice WRLD by releasing music from their vaults. With AI, they may potentially have unlimited content to post and unlimited money to make by exploiting their names and legacies.

Although there are potential ethical issues using AI softwares to create music, I still believe it to be a positive tool rather than a threat. “Heart on My Sleeve” would be nothing without the human input and vision from Ghostwriter.

Throughout the years, the music industry has learned to embrace new technology as it arises, which has allowed for innovative and unique music creation. AI will be no different. Eventually, we will learn to use it to our advantage.

AI has already disrupted the industry and will continue to push boundaries of art and music for years to come. It is up to us to determine whether it will be for better or worse.