What Do Songwriters Think of A.I. Music? We Asked and They Answered

With all this talk about Artificial Intelligence infiltrating the arts and communication, there is a lot of conversation in the ether these days about ethics, laws, freedom of expression, and commerce.

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But while tech and business people offer their attention to things like ChatGPT and politicians begin to wade into the simmering dialogue, we thought it would be interesting to ask some of our favorite artists what they think about the concept.

After all, songwriters make the work that the world loves. If A.I. is now poised to attempt to do the same, shouldn’t songwriters be worried? We asked award-winning and up-and-coming artists alike what they thought about A.I. when it comes to music. Here are their answers.

Ayron Jones

“I think A.I. is a slippery slope. There is a potential for it to be this really amazing tool to help creatives pinpoint ideas and bring them to life. But I think there’s a fine line between inspiring and taking over. So far, it’s too early to tell, but I hope we can find the balance.”

Olivia Jean

“I think A.I. music is heartless, soulless, ridiculous, and it shouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s idiocracy. It’s an insult to musicians.”

Slug, Atmosphere

“I’d love to be indifferent, but I think I have opinions. I don’t know how fully formed my opinions are. Still a ‘work in progress,’ but speaking directly to how I feel about it in regards to music, I guess my main concern is copyright infringement. In rap, we have been constrained by copyright laws for a long time. So I would love to see the legal system keep that same energy when it’s time to protect artists from allowing people to use our voices and faces to create with A.I. I don’t know if I wanna reach the point of hearing an A.I. version of Prince on a new pop jam. I’m probably getting old.”

Chris Ballew, the Presidents of the United States of America

“Strangely, I was just researching the current state of AI and music this morning and my gut feeling is amazement mixed with fear and excitement! One theory is that eventually distribution outlets like Spotify and Apple Music will generate their own original artist using AI. Records labels will try as well but the distributors will rule the roost eventually thereby cutting out the labels from the income stream. Nothing is going to stop all the inevitable changes that are coming. It’s like when Napster came around in the 90s and everybody freaked out and now we have Spotify. AI is coming and how it lands has to be seen but there will be a new source for music eventually that will have little to do with the human touch. My sense is that a lot of people don’t care that a song is artificially generated. They just want songs that make them feel something.”

Ashlie Amber

“Honestly, I haven’t thought about A.I. for music until now. I guess I’m a little behind the times, because I actually had to do a little research and listen to some samples in order to respond to this question. Not gonna lie, some of the things I heard were pretty catchy. There’s no doubt that there’s a formula to writing a hit song. But at the end of the day there’s nothing like personal connection and inflection. That’s something in my opinion that A.I. will never be able to fully accomplish. The ‘I Will Always Love You’s’ of the world will always have a real life powerhouse like Dolly and Whitney behind its iconic-ness.”

Shawn James

“This is a tough one, I think that, like any technology that comes around and gets eventually accepted, it’s going to take some getting used to, but I think we’ll adapt and find ways to make it helpful overall. I see this with modeling amp software, the technology to mimic timeless classic amps without actually having an amp is getting so good that I’m having trouble telling them apart on the recordings I hear. 

“I think that for artists who make music that doesn’t necessarily have a lot of heart, soul, and emotion poured into it, it’s going to hit them harder. Maybe because it can recreate a lot of their sound? But for artists who deeply feel and connect with what they write, musically and lyrically, I don’t think we have anything to worry about. It might even help us in the way that people will want more authenticity in what they consume. I don’t know, but I’m not too worried.”

Jason Mraz

“I haven’t [given any thought on A.I.]. Because, for me, songwriting is such a journey. It’s cathartic. It’s therapeutic, it’s magical, it’s emotional. A transformation happens when you write a song. You can look back on your page and see the hike or the mountain you climbed and the trail you carved through paper and through a forest of words to get to the garden or whatever it is you’re presenting. 

“I’m happy for A.I., congratulations. It’s doing some amazing things. But I wouldn’t want to give up the exploration. I love sitting at a piano and finding the chords that then turn on the narrator or the voice in your head that starts to sing melody ideas to you. I’ll never give that up. But you know, maybe it makes it easier for some people to use A.I. and that’s cool too.

“I always thought songs were for the human experience and songwriting is for the human experience. Songwriting is our birdsong. Singing can deliver a message and have it heard so much further than just a spoken message. A message sung can ring out and ring out for generations. So why diminish that or dilute that? Why take that quality away from us because a computer can do it fast? Hopefully, a human will still be singing it, but I know there’s great A.I. that can also sing the message as well. It’ll be a good business for somebody, but I don’t think it’d be a good business for humanity overall.”

Jimmy James, the True Loves

“Is that where they’re taking people’s voices from the dead and using them and making them sound like they are singing? If you’re taking a song that you wrote and using A.I. to put Aretha Franklin’s voice over it, I don’t know how I feel about that. I don’t feel good about that. Because Aretha isn’t here and who’s to say that would be her thoughts on singing that song? She may, for all we know, never well sing that song. She didn’t sing “Son of a Preacher Man.” She didn’t feel that song, that’s why they gave it to Dusty Springfield. She sang it later, but anyway—you never know a song someone would turn down.

“To me, it’s playing with fire. It sounds like the Terminator! I understand the good side of things, but also at the same time that, to me—it’s pretty scary, to say the least. You’re playing with something you don’t understand. And who benefits off it? Does the family benefit off it? Do the heirs benefit off it? And say it’s not a good song? Would that diminish Aretha or Otis Redding or people like John Lennon or Tupac Shakur or Biggie? Would it diminish their legacy? It could. Let the people rest in peace. Let’s hear the music they left behind, the legacy they did leave. But who knows? That’s just my opinion.”

Malina Moye

“Regarding A.I., it’s incredible to think that a machine can sound like you, but perhaps be more musically perfect. It can be faster, more in tune, and just flawless. But in my heart, I know A.I. won’t be able to give you the real feeling, the real connection, or that real human loose beat that only a real musician or artist can interpret and perform. I will always say humans are smarter than computers because we have to program them. How do you create an actual authentic vibe or a real feeling? Not to mention a real moment? If that were possible, we all should be scared. I did see the movie Megan [laughs], and that was wild!”

Emily James

“With any new technology or development that gets introduced into music (and our world in general), I think it’s natural to feel a bit nervous and hesitant about it at first. As we’ve seen with things like algorithmic playlists, A.I. has proven to be really helpful in music discovery and mood-based listening. In terms of music creation, I foresee A.I. becoming integrated into the creative process as another tool that can be used, similarly to how we use the internet, sample libraries, and digital instruments—to aid us in alternate ways of creating. I’m not too concerned with A.I. taking all of our jobs as artists because I think when it comes to art, and music especially, what makes it so impactful is the truly human nature of it. We’re drawn to hearing about personal stories, told with raw emotion that we can relate to. Every artist has their own unique sound and perspective, so while there may be some new ‘A.I. artists’ that come of this, no one will be getting replaced, because no one can be replicated.”

Photo by Rebecca Sapp/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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