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Grimes on AI and streaming: Spotify should create an 'AI section'

Grimes at the MET Gala 2021
Grimes at the MET Gala 2021 Copyright Theo Wargo/Getty Images
Copyright Theo Wargo/Getty Images
By David Mouriquand
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Is Grimes ahead of the curve by allowing her voice to be used by anyone and suggesting that streamers should have an AI section? Or is artistic creativity threatened by AI-generated tunes?

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Canadian musician and singer Grimes believes streaming services such as Spotify should have a selection dedicated to AI songs.

In a conversation with BBC Radio 1 Dance DJ Jaguar on the UTOPIA Talks podcast, Grimes discussed AI and the voice of artists being used by others.

“I think it’s good to have consent,” she said. “It wouldn’t personally bother me, but I just still think it’s good to respect people, like if they don’t want that… It is a lot, you are like foregoing creative control. And so you sort of have to be like open to that. I think there’s systems that can make it a bit easier.”

Regarding Spotify, she mentioned petitioning the platform and how AI music could have a place on streaming sites.

“Like if they made also an AI section, then it would be easier to like to compartmentalise that stuff. And then people could also understand that it’s not like the artist’s outputting and it becomes less confusing and quality control I think would be a bit easier…”

Last month, Spotify removed "tens of thousands" of songs from AI-powered music creation app Boomy, in a bid to confront the rise of AI-generated songs.

The platform is not the only one to cancel AI-generated music, with French streaming service Deezer having announced that it has developed a technology that allows it to identify and possibly remove songs that clone pop stars’ voices.

These “fake songs” can apparently now be detected; songs like ‘Heart On My Sleeve’, which was “sung” by Drake and The Weeknd.

In April, Universal Music successfully petitioned streaming services to remove the song, saying that "the training of generative AI using our artists' music" was "a violation of copyright law".

The singer also shared her thoughts on the issue of copyright.

“Copyright sucks. I don’t think art belongs to anyone,” she told Jaguar. “Why shouldn’t everyone be able to use your voice or whatever? Like it just seems cool and exciting and then beautiful things might come from it.

She added: “I think there’s too much control, like top down control over everything right now. Even if you look at TikTok, like the early days of TikTok, I feel like a lot of the viral music was like really bizarre and really cool and stuff that would never be on the radio, like Imanbek Rose’s song like that would never just be on the radio, you know?”

Grimes went on to mention the “gatekeeping stranglehold” which “came over TikTok, and now it’s just like we’re not seeing the same level of, I think, interesting stuff coming out.”

Previously, Grimes had made her voice available for anyone to use and revealed that she is currently in beta testing her own AI voice mimicking software. Elf.Tech is her own software, which will allow users to record vocals in Grimes’ voice.

“If you go to elf.tech u can upload ur voice singing or record directly into the app (click the “create” button to do this). It will output the same audio but with my voice,” Grimes explained online.

Grimes also said users can “feel free to take advantage” of the Grimes IP, and that the platform can collect master recording royalties for users if they distribute their songs through Elf.Tech.

“You can use Grimes name and likeness (I humbly ask that you please be tasteful tho). Grimes is now open source and self replicating,” she wrote on Twitter before adding that Elf.Tech will seek a 50 per cent split on master recording royalties “in exchange for a Grimes feat and distribution”.

In late April, Grimes spoke at the annual International Music Summit (IMS) in Ibiza, where she delivered the keynote speech, in which she further delved into the topic of music rights management and technology.

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“I feel strongly that there’s way too much gatekeeping in music,” said Grimes. “Copyright sucks. Art is a conversation with everyone that’s come before us. Intertwining it with the ego is a modern concept. The music industry has been defined by lawyers, and that strangles creativity.”

So, is Grimes the example to follow, in adapting to the ever-changing musical environment (and charging 50%)? There is an undeniable savvy in locking in royalties for AI-generated content with no effort on her part except consent of vocal use. 

Or should streamers carry purging their platforms of all AI-generated content, in a bid to protect “true” artistic creativity in the face of algorithmically generated tunes?

Whichever side you’re on, it does seem that AI isn’t going anywhere. After all, artificial intelligence recently revived The Beatles... What next? More Nirvana tracks?

Oh God, let’s not give them ideas...

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