Grimes says others can use her voice for AI-created songs

Music artists and record labels are increasingly rising up against outsiders using A.I. to create songs that mimic superstar singers without permission. But some artists are welcoming the development. 

Popstar Grimes tweeted on Sunday to invite the public to use A.I. to create music in her voice. 

“I’ll split 50% royalties on any successful AI generated song that uses my voice. Same deal as I would with any artist i collab with,” she wrote on Twitter: “Feel free to use my voice without penalty. I have no label and no legal bindings.”

A.I. has made its way into every industry—from banking to cooking. Its impact on the music industry caught many people’s attention last week, when a track using A.I.-generated voices of pop icons Drake and the Weeknd, called “Heart on My Sleeve,” went viral. A video with the song received several million views on TikTok before it was taken down last Tuesday after copyright violation claims, but stirred a larger conversation about the potential and dangers of using A.I. to create new music in the voice and style of another. In an already complicated ecosystem of copyright lawsuits against numerous artists, such music highlights new challenges that the industry may face in the near future.

Grimes, who has been a proponent of A.I., collaborated with music startup Endel in 2020 to come up with an A.I. lullaby for her first-born with former boyfriend Elon Musk. On Twitter, she discussed the idea of making copyright obsolete and said that allowing free access is part of the appeal. 

“I think it’s cool to be fused w[ith] a machine and I like the idea of open sourcing all art and killing copyright,” Grimes wrote in a tweet.

Other A.I.-music creations have been doing the rounds on the internet—like a version of “Hey there Delilah” in Kanye West’s voice and a fake version of Selena Gomez’s “Love You Like a Love Song” in Dua Lipa’s voice. The versions of both songs are deceptively good in terms of imitating  the style of the respective artists, but the tech used to create them opens raises legal questions about using such tools to create or repackage music.

One of the fears about A.I. being used more widely in music is over the legal risks, according to Scott Keniley, entertainment lawyer and legal counsel at Soundscape VR, an immersive platform that presents music through virtual reality. He says cases may crop up “over the use of even what may be unrecognizable samples without Congress paving the way with ‘fair use’ exceptions that apply,” referring to the legally using copyrighted material without permission from copyright holders under certain circumstances. 

In an effort to clamp down on A.I., Universal Music Group told streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple to ban A.I. tools from using music and lyrics on their services for training, the Financial Times reported earlier this month. 

“We have a moral and commercial responsibility to our artists to work to prevent the unauthorised use of their music and to stop platforms from ingesting content that violates the rights of artists and other creators,” UMG told the FT

But A.I. may also present an opportunity for the music industry, Keniley said, by allowing artists to earn money by letting others use their songs and voices. 

“Copyright owners commission third parties to create music at their direction/prompts and claim full ownership – think software,” Keniley told Fortune, comparing artists commissioning music to business owners commissioning the creation of a software. In both cases, he points out that individuals add their inputs but don’t directly create the product themselves. “Major artists demand partial ownership from relatively unknown songwriters without contribution just to be associated with the artist.”

Keniley thinks that A.I. merely marks another step in the evolution of art, which started with artists creating works by hand. A.I. artists, he said, can make legitimate contributions to the music industry, companies can make money from it. 

“Embrace it, and find entrepreneurial ways to monetize it to the benefit of the content creators as well label/distributor investors,” Keniley said.

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