The collective disquiet around AI’s impact on the music business seems to have calmed down a little of late.
Just a few months ago, in April, at the height of the ‘fake Drake‘ controversy, the mood was very different.
Panic set in when the voices of superstar artists were being spoofed left, right, and center.
Spooked by AI’s potential impact on the music business, William Packer, an influential media and tech analyst for BNP Paribas Exane, even double-downgraded Universal Music Group‘s stock, from ‘outperform’ to ‘underperform’.
Packer wrote that “AI is a new disruptive threat” where “a glass half full industry narrative is holding… for now”.
Since then, things have seemed a bit more upbeat.
Plus, Pershing Square, the NYC-headquartered hedge fund management company run by billionaire investor Bill Ackman – and the owner of approximately 10% of UMG – sees in AI a significant commercial opportunity for UMG.
There are still some doubting voices out there, however, including one of the most successful pop and rock songwriters of the past Century.
Brian May, the legendary guitarist from iconic British rock band Queen, was asked in a new interview about AI’s “potential use in the music world”.
May’s response, speaking to Guitar Player magazine, was extraordinary.
He said: “[My] major concern with it now is in the artistic area. I think by this time next year the landscape will be completely different. We won’t know which way is up.
“We won’t know what’s been created by AI and what’s been created by humans. Everything is going to get very blurred and very confusing, and I think we might look back on 2023 as the last year when humans really dominated the music scene.”
He added: “I really think it could be that serious, and that doesn’t fill me with joy. It makes me feel apprehensive, and I’m preparing to feel sad about this.”
I think by this time next year the landscape will be completely different. We won’t know which way is up. We won’t know what’s been created by AI and what’s been created by humans.”
One shouldn’t be quick to dismiss May’s opinion on AI as merely that belonging to a rocker of a certain age.
The Queen man is arguably as qualified to comment on matters of science and technology as he is on the state and evolution of pop music.
May earned his PhD in Astrophysics from Imperial College London in 2007. His thesis, which you can read here, is titled ‘A Survey of Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud’.
In other words: Brian May is a smart person… and his candid take on the future we can expect to see with AI arguably cuts through a lot of the current noise around the technology at this time.
“I think the whole thing is massively scary. It’s much more far-reaching than anybody realized – well, certainly than I realized.”
Commenting further on the matter of AI in the interview with Guitar Player, May explained that he believes a “lot of great stuff will come from AI, because it is going to increase the powers of humans to solve problems”.
But he added: “The potential for AI to cause evil is, obviously, incredibly huge – not just in music, ’cause nobody dies in music, but people can die if AI gets involved in politics and world domination for various nations.
“I think the whole thing is massively scary. It’s much more far-reaching than anybody realized – well, certainly than I realized.”Music Business Worldwide