Will AI Replace Humans in Music? Probably Not

All the Unique Ways Human Creativity Cannot Be Automated

With the introduction of Chat GPT, it seems like artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere all of the sudden. What once seemed like the far off fantasies of a science fiction novel are here with us today. And this has caused a lot of alarm for people.

There is so much the general public doesn’t know about AI and how it's going to reshape our civilization and our culture. AI is proving to be far more advanced than any of us were expecting it to be at this point. The fact that AI is able to compete with graduate and law students certainly shows that it is going to be a competitor to all kinds of employees. And as somebody who writes articles like this one for a living, I can tell you that I personally am a little worried about being one of the AI automation casualties of our modern economy.

With all the practical things that AI has already shown that it can do -- stocking inventory, applying statutes, writing content, answering customer questions -- many people are worried that it is going to begin replacing large parts of our arts and cultural productions, too. Have you seen the AI generated music covers? Maybe Linkin Park's Pokémon theme song cover, or Frank Sinatra singing Smells Like Teen Spirit?

With all of these advances taking place, the question many artists have on their minds is will AI replace humans in music?

Since AI is readily able to generate music and vocals, it seems like only a matter of time until the majority of the music on the radio is actually being brought to you by our new AI overlords.

But not to worry, the early research shows that music is unlikely to replace humans in the creation of music. Today we're covering why we think AI isn't coming for our creative positions anytime time soon, including:

  • Humans imagine, AI only mimics
  • Studies on how people receive AI-generated music
  • AI as a tool for musicians

So let's get to it!

ai creating music
Artificial intelligence is the use of computer technology to mimic human intelligence

Humans Can Imagine, AI Can Only Mimic

Artificial Intelligence Simply Doesn’t Have the Ability to Create A New and Unique Piece of Music

More than anything, people relate to songs that share an emotional state or way of feeling that they themselves can relate to. By hearing a music describe similar feelings and emotions, they are able to connect to the song on a personal level. It's validating. It's cathartic. It's why people have such strong connections with their favorite artists and the other people who listen to them.

The thing is, these emotions are tied up in the feelings that we have as humans. AI doesn’t have any feelings. It might be able to vaguely represent different emotions, but it actually has no understanding of what different emotions are and how they feel -- which means it can't describe emotion in a new way and have it resonate with listeners, the way a human artist can.

Instead, AI can just simply try to recreate the hooks and melodies of other songs. It can’t truly write a ballad because it can never actually be in love. Those experiences and those emotions are such an essential part of why listeners care about and connect with music, so how could a hollow facsimile compete?

Artificial intelligence is just that: intelligence.

It simply doesn’t have the tools to experience and memorialize an emotional reaction or feeling. It is a cold calculating machine that is entirely free of emotion or heart ache. It is the head, and not the heart -- and just a mind does not good music make. In the absence of those emotions, AI is going to have an uphill climb if it wants to replace human musicians!

man with a long white beard playing chess against an ai robot
AI still has a long way to go before it can outsmart humans!

People Prefer Music Written By Humans

Early Studies Suggest AI Has A Long Way to Go Before It Can Replace Musicians

But it's not just a matter of AI lacking the emotional capacity to write songs that resonate with humans.

It turns out that people just flat out don’t think the music generated by AI is as good as the music generated by human beings. A recent study has shown that people prefer music that is created by humans. While more research is being conducted, this early study involved 50 participants with a high level of music knowledge were played excerpts of human and AI-generated music.

Listeners were required to rate each piece of music on six musical criteria. These included stylistic success, aesthetic pleasure, repetition or self-reference, melody, harmony, and rhythm. Of course, they were not told which musical pieces were the AI composed ones and which were the songs composed by humans.  

In their analysis of the findings, the authors found that “the ratings for human-composed excerpts are significantly higher and stylistically more successful than those for any of the systems responsible for computer-generated excerpts.”

Translation? Across all six categories, the study's participants vastly preferred the human composed music to the AI composed music. Although this is just an initial study, the fact that the outcome was so one sided speaks volumes about how people feel when they hear AI generated music.

man creating music with an acoustic guitar
Musicians will always have a drive to express themselves and their emotions when they are composing music

Artificial Intelligence Will Serve As A Tool for Musicians

It Won’t Outright Replace Them in the Creative Process

AI will more than likely serve as a tool for human artists rather than as an outright replacement for them. The reason for this is that AI can’t actually be creative. It can only mimic the music that some human artist already made, as we already discussed.

AI generates music by being fed all sorts of samples and then creating an amalgamation that it believes fits the prompt... But that doesn’t make for good song writing.

A musician may be influenced or inspired by a song another artist has made, but they aren’t putting it into an algorithm and spitting it back out, pretending it's something new and creative. No, a human artist has all of their musical influences, their moods, their skill, and their emotions all at play at once when they are writing a song. It's because of that complex nature of songwriting that AI will never truly be able to replace humans when it comes to making music. Humans have many sources of inspiration that AI just can't draw from. Where humans imagine, AI only mimics.

Instead of replacing human musicians, AI will serve as a tool for artists to refine and speed up their production of musical pieces. There is a lot of busy work that can go into composing a song, so having an AI tool that helps musicians cut down on how time-consuming the process is would be hugely beneficial. When an artist wants to come up with a particular sounding song, they can plug similar examples into AI and get a new base song that they can work from and refine to their tastes.

The same thing goes for lyrics. Although AI will never totally be able to replicate how human beings feel and emote, it can provide a new spin on lyrics that has never existed before and serve as a source of inspiration for the musician in that way.

AI might even serve as a useful tool for music therapy in the future. An AI could be developed that provides individualized music therapy directly from a patient's smartphone, which could go a really long way in making music therapy more accessible for everybody who might need it!

Human connection is an essential part of the music experience.

The human connection is too integral a part of music for AI to be able to sufficiently replace musicians

Although AI will never be able to truly replace human musicians, there is still a lot of concern about potential job losses for composers and studio musicians. It's still too early to tell whether or not Ai will lead to those job losses.

I personally hope that AI serves as a powerful tool for musicians to help them spark creativity and increase their creative output. I certainly don’t want to live in a world where all the music is powered by AI.

But from the early studies that have been completed it looks like no one wants that either.

With AI at its current stage of development people still vastly prefer music composed by humans over music composed by artificial intelligence.

And for me at least, this is a reassuring sign. AI might be able to do a lot of things, but it is currently a tool that makes people’s lives easier rather than a tool that corporations use to fire people and automate jobs away.

Anthony Stockton
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