Is AI about to drive real music off the charts?

By Ollie Horsley, Specialist Content Creator

We may not be one of those painfully quirky agencies that likes to place words like ‘rockstar’ at the end of its job titles, but we’re getting quite excited by the prospect of Artificial Intelligence (AI) making rockstars out of all of us.

AI is developing all around us and soon it could change the charts. Personally, I haven’t paid much attention to the Top 10 in recent years but just this week we’ve been subjected to the builders’ radio blaring out the hits right outside the office window.

While I’ve felt a little more in touch with the latest musical trends, the unsolicited serenades from Radio 1’s top ranking artists have caused me to question the effect that music has on productivity in the workplace.

Given the choice, I find that listening to instrumental music improves my focus and my favourite music streaming app uses AI to recommend new music based on my most-listened to artists. But my trusty smartphone doesn’t just introduce me to new music – it also enables me to create my own wordless ‘jams’ to propel me through my writing schedule.

Using the Groovebox app, myself and anyone equally as inept at music making can compose an original piece of music within seconds. The AI-driven interface gives users access to a library of pre-loaded drum and synth loops that can be easily layered and tweaked to produce a seemingly infinite number of musical arrangements.

So, if it’s this easy for a content creator to produce inspiring new sounds, how is technology changing things for real music makers?

Last week research scientists at Google’s Magenta showcased a sequence of rudimentary compositions produced by a machine learning model that predicts which notes it should play. The same week, a robot developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology played its very own composition on the marimba after analysing over 5,000 popular pieces of music.

For the purists, the idea of AI influencing the creative process is likely to remain a sore subject. It’s only natural that many musicians and music lovers want to defend ‘real’ music, yet since the inception of YouTube and the camera phone, anyone can become a film maker, and we don’t hear the same complaints from the film buffs out there.

Perhaps in the long run there’ll be scope for anyone with a smartphone to quickly create original pieces of music to help us perform different functions. A simple interface could enable us to dial in our own requirements such as genre, tempo, current mood, desired mood, current energy level and even the task we’ll be doing while listening such as writing, running or completing a long car journey. Whether this would have a detrimental impact on the charts, I’ll leave it for the true critics to decide – they’re still outside painting the window frames.

It all comes down to the age-old argument; does technology diminish true creativity? From where I’m sitting, still within earshot of the builder’s radio, I believe that technology does not take away from the creative process but instead adds to it, and enables greater results. And that’s what drives us an agency – the belief that creativity is at the heart of technological innovation, and that technological innovation inspires creativity.

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