Hassan Taher is an artificial intelligence expert, and he’s been following the progression of this technology across a variety of industries. As a noted author based in Los Angeles, he was keen to analyze the release of a track made in the vein of two famous Canadian musicians.
This was a significant event in the progression of AI models, and it raises questions about everything from liability to copyrights. Taher talks more about what happened and the wider implications for the music industry.
“Heart on My Sleeve” is a song originally posted by TikTok user ghostwriter977. This anonymous individual received millions of hits across a variety of platforms, including TikTok. From the looks of it, ghostwriter977 was the one to produce the song and attribute the vocals to superstars Drake and The Weeknd. In reality, though, the vocals were supposedly generated by AI to simulate a collaboration between the artists.
While there’s still a lot of mystery shrouding the matter, Hassan Taher believes this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the integration of AI in music. In one fell swoop, it illustrates how difficult it can be to distinguish one type of content from another and highlights how fast the industry is going to need to move if it has a prayer of addressing these issues before they cause confusion.
To create the song, ghostwriter977 worked with a vocal model, feeding it samples of the real singers’ voices and allowing the program to learn how to replicate everything from the pitch to the natural rhythms of both artists’ styles before interweaving the two samples. The results were astonishing, particularly regarding the nuances of their cadence and timbre. Fans may not have wanted to be duped, but they were impressed that they could be duped in the first place.
So far, the only thing the TikTok user has admitted to using was the vocal model, so it’s unclear if they wrote the lyrics and melody or if AI wrote them. In the credits, ghostwriter977 names Metro Boomin (a noted music producer) for the song’s beat, but then again, they also credited two singers for work they didn’t do. If an AI program did write the song, the program included references to other artists that both singers were connected to in the past, including Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber.
Hassan Taher notes that the song was released to six platforms, including Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer SoundCloud, Spotify, Tidal, and YouTube. Ghostwriter977 also cut out one minute of the song and featured several videos of the snippet on TikTok. The poster gives an Easter egg or two to his fans.
In one of the videos, ghostwriter977 appears to reference Republic Records, a label that represents both The Weeknd and Drake, via a screenshot of a conversation between themselves and their attorney. Of course, this doesn’t mean that ghostwriter977 has an attorney, but it’s a nod to the legality of what they’re doing.
So what does Hassan Taher have to say about this? As of now, intellectual property only extends to materials made by humans, and platforms like Spotify haven’t clarified their position on AI-generated content. If AI was merely sampling a song, there would be a much straighter line between the product and the verdict.
Given the sanction to things like cover bands and parody songs, there might be more protection than people think. Given all the chatter about the laws and how they apply to music, Hassan Taher acknowledges that the debate about this issue won’t be settled overnight.
There are a lot of questions surrounding AI right now. Can we envision a world where we don’t need music stars? What if all of our favorite songs are eventually made by AI? Hassan Taher comments that AI is already ubiquitous when it comes to touching up content, whether that’s sound, text, or audio, but that’s different than taking the place of a real human artist.
The success or failure of new media, whether a movie or an album, is based on how enjoyable it is to watch or listen to. There are some people who will demand that they only want the “real thing” made by a human artist, but how deep does that desire go, and can it be replaced over time with enough exposure to AI content? These questions are still up in the air.
For professionals in the music industry, much of the discussion comes down to creation versus manifestation. It’s much easier to bring an idea to life than it was before, thanks to technology programs that are essentially anticipating what you’re looking for and providing it in an instant.
For experts like Taher, it seems clear that more people need to jump in on this matter — and fast. If there’s going to be any kind of clear resolution moving forward, there needs to be more communication between artists, tech developers, and rights holders. The more they’re kept apart (which is, unfortunately, the status quo in the industry), the more likely we are to see tragedies unfold. It will ultimately mean that a small group of people are controlling the direction of music, and they may well have their own best interests at heart.
Ghostwriter977 specifically chose two artists who are likely to feel unthreatened by AI. Their talents and fan base are so vast that they’re unlikely to see drastic cuts to either their revenue or their reputation. Taher says that there’s a lot more at stake for other musicians, though. AI can pump out mediocre music in volumes, which will likely result in a flood of unoriginal but ultimately usable music. If the music libraries balloon, it will kill the demand for working musicians who count on that income to pay their bills.
As with nearly every tool, it comes down to who’s wielding it. AI might drain creativity from artists, but it could also be used to streamline the creative process and make it more effective.
There are plenty of people out there who view AI as a cloaked thief in the night. For Taher, there’s more going on, regardless of whether it’s a song, a line of code, or a novel. As a noted personality and storyteller, he wants people to understand how to use AI responsibly and why it doesn’t have to mean the death of original thought. He encourages everyone to discover what it can do, so they can decide what they ultimately want it to do.