Making Money From Music

Will Music Producers Be Replaced By AI? Not Yet…

Everyone has heard the AI Drake song. It’s impressive, sounds remarkably accurate to Drake, and Drake, nor his label, had nothing to do with the making of that song. The song in question has resulted in legal troubles for a numerous people involved. Drake’s label is fighting hard to keep it out of the public eye, so I won’t include a link in this article.

The song gained tens of millions of streams and provided a fascinating insight into the future of music production.

But music producers won’t be replaced by AI. Not yet, at least.

The Drake AI Song – How It Was Really Made

If you read more into the story of AI music, it becomes a little more nuanced. A lot of people when they heard the “AI Drake Song” (Heart on My Sleeve) were under the assumption that the entirety of the song was simply generated from a prompt in the same way we use ChatGPT, but this isn’t the case.

There’s a lot of misinformation around AI in music in 2023, so I want to clear up what was actually done by a human and what was done by AI.

1. The Vocals Were Recorded by a Human.

Yes, that’s right, Drake’s vocals on the song were still rapped by someone. The lyrics were likely written or at least edited by a person too. The original vocal performance still needed to carry the same flow and style of Drake, so the performer is clearly a talented artist who was able to emulate Drake with ease.

2. Drake’s Voice Is AI Generated

Let me explain. The original vocal recording by whoever made the song was then fed into an AI voice filter, which is able to change the original vocals to mimic Drake’s voice. This is part of the song where AI was used. Not the vocal performance from scratch, not the creativity which went into making the beat, not the overall vision of the song, just the vocal effect which can be used to make anyone sound like Drake.

I’m not disrespecting the guy’s work, I still think it’s remarkable to make a song which sounds so accurate, but people are giving too much credit to AI for the overall composition of the track.

3. The Beat Is (Probably) Completely Made From Scratch.

Sorry to disappoint, but AI is nowhere near even close to having the ability to produce a well mixed, dark trap song with punchy drums, tight hi-hats and a fuzzy, bouncing 808, let alone properly structure a beat.

If you want to see where we are actually at in terms of what AI can output sonically, check this great video out:

The beat for Heart on My Sleeve was obviously made by a music producer, and a good one at that.

So, where does that leave us as music producers over the next few years. Are we all going to be replaced by AI? Will artists just instruct an AI to make a beat for them, making our profession a thing of the past?


Even If AI Improves, It Will Need Human Judgements.

There is a reason why the best music software and plugins don’t just make things for us and offer so much customisation – talented music producers have the ability to make judgements which is would be extremely difficult for an AI to understand.

From the way an 808 meshes with a kick to unique grooves and unusual sound design, we are years away from AI being able to make music good enough that a producer doesn’t need to go in and still do a load of extra work.

We’ve seen this with so called “AI Mastering” services which have been out for quite a while. They claim to do a decent job at mastering your tracks at a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional, but it’s clear that in art, sometimes human imperfection, personal preferences and biases are what’s needed to make a hit.

Yes, AI might soon be able to robotically emulate your favourite song, but mark my words, music producers are going nowhere for a very, very long time in my opinion.

What AI is Good at, and Why Music Isn’t One of Those Things (Yet)

Sure, for performing repetitive tasks which can be put down to a science, AI is going to be great. If your job involves a lot of repetition and little judgement is needed, it’s a scary time to be alive. On the other hand, creative professions where human talent is valued and appreciated are probably going to be safe for now. Whether that’s acting, performing or even writing, these skills have subtleties which aren’t easy to emulate.

Think about writing and AI. Yes, it’s competent and would do a perfectly fine job in a lot of contexts, such as sending emails and writing boring paperwork. But journalists, authors and writers who make their living from writing often do so because they have their own style. If the entire web and all content we consume becomes so bland and sterile that personal identity in media no longer exists, then that’s a sad world we will live in.

I hope this article gives you just a little bit of hope, and helps you realise that even with AI Armageddon potentially around the corner, music is a space where humans like to enjoy things made by humans. Granted, AI may come to benefit producers, but replace them? I doubt it.

Is There a Fight Against AI Music?

There is a battle in the courtrooms right now over the legality of emulating an artist’s voice or talent. These existing models have been trained from bodies of work which are arguably not legal to use as training data. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see artists represented by major labels get some kind of additional legal backing on their music which states that reproducing the work for the sake of training an AI is illegal. It will be interesting to see how the music world responds to artificial intelligence, and if it will eventually be embraced or outright banned. Who knows at this point.

Conclusion – AI Won’t Replace Music Producers

All I do know is that making music is fun. Irrespective of whether or not I was competing with AI, I would still continue to make stuff I like. Think of it this way – People love live performances by their favourite bands, even though the sound might objectively be better if a DJ just played their songs. But it isn’t the same. This phenomenon is exactly why people still spend thousands on expensive hand-made mechanical watches, and appreciate craftsmanship in all facets of life. A world without artists, designers and skilled craftsmen would simply not exist, because regardless of innovation and what is the “better” product, there will always be a market for things produced with care and thought.

We like enjoying things that we can see someone has spent time on, even if it’s more flawed.

Just like Casio didn’t kill mechanical watches, AI won’t kill artists.