The Terminators may not be flattening our lands yet, but Artificial Intelligence has reared its head in a Heavy Metal move, which is sure to keep music lawyers busy, as an AI Ronnie James Dio has covered the Iron Maiden classic Rime Of The Ancient Mariner and more.
Now is a time when musicians struggle to get income from streaming services and their unfair remuneration models. Even Steve Lukather told MetalTalk that he “spent all my money on the record [new album Bridges], and I don’t make anything from it. Those days of selling records and going, wow, look at all the money we’re making, are long behind us.”
The threat of doctoring creative work has become more apparent in art. Pre-AI, there were some notable court cases where transformative use prevailed, changing the source material enough to escape any infringement claim.
Now, AI magery generators exist online, which take a selection of art from a five billion image database and combine them into a finished piece of art which is presented as copyright free.
Earlier this year, Getty Images issued a lawsuit against one AI Image Generator company, citing “brazen infringement . . . on a staggering scale.” So the AI fightback has begun in the art and image world.
Closer to home, the Limited Online Music Licence from PRS For Music in the UK is the method for using copyrighted music in podcasts where annual revenue is less than £12.5k. There appears to be no requirement to tell them which songs were played, so you imagine that if MetalTalk were to host a one-hour, six-song show with upcoming bands, none would see a cut of our fees.
But the record companies are fighting back. The podcast Brain Damage, the definitive Pink Floyd Radio Show, has been told to shut up shop after 18 years and 317 episodes. “I’ve been ‘asked’ to cease and desist this podcast by the powers that be, Sony Music Entertainment, under the direction of Pink Floyd Management,” they said in a statement posted to Facebook. “I’m quite taken back by this order to stop because I have a BMI license, but apparently (I’m told by Sony’s legal team) that does not cover ‘exploitation of sound recordings – bootlegs or otherwise.’ So that’s that.”
Above, the AI Ronnie has a go at Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath as he/it tackles Headless Cross. AI singing is an ongoing field of research, and the quality of AI-generated singing can vary significantly.
There are two common techniques: one converts text into singing using a virtual voice, and the other uses deep learning to generate music, including vocal melodies.
Above, AI Ronnie James Dio sings The Trooper, too, showing that while some AI-generated singing might sound very realistic, others might still have noticeable flaws or lack the emotional nuances that human singers can convey.
Enjoy these videos while you can. For the future of music as we know and love it, you have to hope that they will not be online for long.