- Soundful is a new AI music platform that writes songs for you.
- AI is just another tool, and artists will use it to create new mediums.
- Legally, the AI waters are murky.
AI like Dall-E are hot right now, but what happens when these artificial artists come for our jobs?
Automation puts people out of jobs, from ATMs to washing machines to supermarket cashiers. But those have always been pretty menial tasks. Now, the machines are coming for the creative classes. A new "human-assisted AI" music-making service called Soundful promises to replace jingle artists, soundtrack makers, and anyone who creates commissioned music. And music artists are getting pretty excited about it.
"I see it very much the same as AI art […] potentially steam-rolling 'low value' creative output—but I don't really see this as a bad thing. I don't think it will result in fewer artists any more than drum machines result in fewer drummers. I think it just widens the scope of both who can participate in the art and what it means to be an artist," musician Nate Horn told Lifewire in an Elektronauts forum thread.
Soundful will "generate and download unique, royalty-free tracks at the click of a button," says the blurb. You pick a genre, make a few choices, and go. Repeat until you find something you like. It sounds like the marketing department of BigCorp Inc will be tasking an intern with their ad jingles from now on, right? Not necessarily.
Even if AI's like Soundful and DALL-E absorb some lower-level creative work, they will also create other jobs in different places. Portrait painters, for example, were made obsolete by the camera, but in return, we got an entirely new artistic medium.
I think it just widens the scope of both who can participate in the art and what it means to be an artist.
"Contrary to what many people thought, when [ATMs] came into business, more jobs were created since banks could focus on expanding their business, rather than having most of their workforce only for doing deposits and withdrawals and giving a more personalized service on the things that really matter," musician and applied economics master Ramiro Somosierra told Lifewire via email.
And, if you have ever worked making commissioned music or done illustrations for magazines, you'll know that there's not much creativity involved anyway.
"I trained as an illustrator and years ago, did a fair amount of book work. And while it sounds like a nice way to make a living, it really wasn't. You're given a strict brief, which they then obviously change several times, and there was pretty much no option for personal interpretation. It's a job, and you provide a service and a product," said musician and trained illustrator monz0id in an electronic music forum thread.
Just Another Tool
The thing is, Soundfuls' process sounds a lot like how musicians work already. Even if you're a virtuoso pianist, you'll still noodle away on the keys until something catches your ear, and then you'll expand on that idea.
Musicians already use generative tools to come up with melodies, chord progressions, and so on, and then pick the ones they like.
"AIs like Soundful could be used as a tool for those who write jingles and commission-based musicians, too. With how fast-paced the music business back end is, this could minimize the time between deadlines," EDM producer Ryan Mina, aka MIIINASAN, told Lifewire via email.
The biggest problem with AI, creativity-wise anyway, is that it's a legal swamp. AIs like Dall-E and MidJourney are trained on existing images, many of which are copyrighted works. Who knows where this will go when AI-generated images and music really take off.
"Where created algorithmic 'music' crosses the line from homage to intellectual property violations, lawyers will get involved and sue both the creators of the music and the creators of the app that does the dirty work," Aron Solomon, head of strategy and chief legal analyst at Esquire Digital, told Lifewire via email. "If you were to use DALL·E to commercialize a work of your art that looked very much like Edvard Munch's Silent Scream, you'd be in trouble. So when you use Soundful to create a jingle that sounds like the Meow Mix song, you're in the same chicken and liver soup."
And ironically, Soundful itself seems very aware of the issues.
"Soundful may be an excellent tool for generating ideas and inspiration. The drawback, however, is that Soundful owns the copyright to each generated track unless you purchase it," drummer Nick Cesarz told Lifewire via email.
Things are going to get a lot more complicated, and maybe they'll never be simple. But AI-generated music and images will have a huge impact commercially, artistically, and politically. Get ready.