How AI Will Continue to Affect Dance Music (guest column) – Music Ally

Dan Smith

This is a guest post by Dan Smith, General Manager of dance label Armada‘s US operations. Here, he writes about the impact creative music AI may have on the dance music industry.

Generative AI has seemingly endless potential and capabilities, including the ability to make completely synthesized songs. Audiences may remember in April when a song from Drake and The Weeknd went viral on social media – only it was neither Drake nor The Weeknd behind the creation of the track; it was generative AI.

As the entertainment industry becomes increasingly aware of generative AI’s prowess, industry leaders begin to take actionable steps forward. Universal Music asking streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music to stop AI companies from ‘training’ on their platforms without explicit consent is a prime example of this. In the TV world, the WGA strike is another. The tentpoles of these movements is for creatives to have protections in place to keep their skills from being replaced by the likes of AI. Meanwhile, indie leaders in the music space are looking for ways to experiment with this new technology.

The Uncharted Waters of AI

Those not completely immersed in the constantly evolving news around AI may find themselves feeling confused or even anxious about its potential. New technologies come with a lot of uncharted territory, and AI is no exception. This affects companies of all statures, including the major players. In fact, Spotify took a hard stance on keeping AI programs from leveraging its IP to create synthetic content and removed upwards of 10,000 tracks that used AI. Similarly, YouTube recently announced the launch of its Music AI Incubator, which has a goal of embracing AI responsibly within the space. Other platforms – such as Meta and TikTok, which often receive data from music labels first-hand – have yet to publicly issue sentiments but are actively hiring in the space.

Companies are continuing to walk the blurry line between ‘OK’ and ‘not OK’ when it comes to the technical challenges spurred by AI. However, more damaging repercussions, like deep fake recordings free of licensing and royalty obligations, can arise if AI is allowed to run unchecked.

armada music

But It’s Not All Bad

There may be a handful of concerns regarding public use of AI, but this emerging technology also has many applications that can provide new creative opportunities for labels, producers and artists alike. Dance music labels are not looking to use AI as a way to remove the human factor from its content. Instead, the focus is on utilizing the new technology for the benefit of the creative process and to boost productivity in needed areas.

In the dance music world, AI is a tried and tested avenue for new forms of creative expression. As early adopters of this technology, dance music makes up most of the world’s AI-generated records and artists in this space are shown to be more willing to experiment commercially than artists within other genres.

Many artists in dance music have begun experimenting with AI vocals, whether it be to create an entire track from scratch or to breathe new life into a once-forgotten track from the dance music’s heyday. For example, Australian producer Kito’s single ‘Cold Touch’ leverages synthetic (approved) vocals from Grimes and has already amassed 1 million streams on Spotify alone. Taking a closer look at Elf.Tech, the ‘GrimesAI’ program used to create this track, a healthy amount of content falls under the electronic or dance umbrellas. Other artists in the dance space have also experimented with AI as an assistive asset to production: David Guetta’s replication of Eminem’s voice and Armin van Buuren’s ‘Computers Take Over the World’ campaign are just a few other notable examples.

This is all to say that as AI continues to take all industries by storm, those who learn how to use it effectively are the ones who will ultimately find the most success.

So, What Happens Next?

Looking at the current landscape, there are a number of possibilities that dance music professionals hope to see come out of AI in the future. Similar to how it can help artists build songs from almost nothing, AI has the capability to break music down into its smallest component: stems. 

Stems are a type of audio file that groups together multiple layered tracks. These musical building blocks can be leveraged for a multitude of purposes that help infuse new life into old and current music alike: using a specific instrumental for a movie or television score, allowing a band to sample a specific vocal for a new single, and more. Perhaps a more profound feat is being able to bring previously scrapped vocals from deceased artists back to life through stem usage, like when Paul McCartney announced his plans to use never-before-heard John Lennon vocals to create one last Beatles project. This technique is helpful for artists who may have lost an original recording session or recorded a track before modern day technology was able to isolate stems in the upfront. Companies like Serato are making waves for both live DJ and studio production as the first easily usable stem separation tool specifically for the genre.

The entertainment industry at large surely has more obstacles in its future regarding AI. But, as potential negotiations between Hollywood and the WGA have shown, there is likely a formidable solution for these roadblocks. The possibilities could be endless, but controlled experimentation is the key to proper use, increased education and safeguarding human creativity.

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