Is AI a Threat to Musician Jobs?

April 24, 2023

If you have spent some time recently with ChatGPT, Bing Chat, or any other AI tool, it’s natural that you might have started feeling some worries about your job security.

Artificial intelligence is improving at an incredible rate, and on a monthly basis, new tools are being launched deeming their past versions obsolete.

Up until now, we musicians didn’t feel threatened because it has always been said that creative jobs were the last bastion for humans, however, things are starting to change.

Hi, this is Ramiro from GearAficionado, I’m a musician, publisher, and economics researcher with a special interest in how automation affects the job market.

In this article, I will discuss how I think AI will impact jobs in the music industry, and I will also give you some actionable tips on how to prevent a robot from taking over your job.

Let’s get started!

We have been here before: Horses and ATMs

In the early 1900s, apart from trains, the horse was the predominant mode of transportation.

That was the status quo for years until the automobile started gaining popularity.

The thing is, cars are in most aspects better than horses at doing the tasks required of them.

This can be measured in terms of productivity.

Which can also be understood as the amount of input (money) you require to get a unit of output (getting things moved around).

Supply will always gravitate toward the highest productivity alternative because its incentive is to maximize profits.

As the car started gaining popularity, the horse industry began seeing a sharp decline.

However, at the end of this abrupt process, the number of jobs in the economy ended up being the same, if not higher.

This is because, the savings from using a more productive transportation solution allowed for people to spend on other things, boosting the job demand in other sectors.

Something similar happened with ATMs in the 90s.

Until then, deposits and withdrawals in banks were handled by humans.

When the automatic teller machine started gaining traction, a lot of human tellers lost their jobs, or were moved to new positions.

However, at the end of the decade, the number of banking jobs had considerably grown.

That was because the cost of operating a bank branch dropped because fewer employees were needed, and financial entities decided to expand their business into a lot more locations across the country, ultimately employing more people.

But what has all of this to do with music?

Let me get to it.

Music Has Already Felt Productivity Boosts

Let’s focus on two big technological advancements that shaped the music industry over the last decades.

The first one is the home studio, and the second one is pitch correction tools for vocals.

For decades recording an album was like filming a movie.

You needed specialized and very expensive gear, and pros to operate it and guide you through the process.

Since we are able to record our music at home, and with acceptable quality, music was democratized.

The barrier to entry is extremely lower than it has always been, and almost anyone can create their own sound at home.

Autotune and Melodyne are software programs used in music production to correct or manipulate the pitch and timing of recorded vocals.

Autotune was first introduced in 1997, while Melodyne was released in 2001.

Both programs made singing more accessible to everyone by allowing even non-professional singers to achieve a polished and professional-sounding vocal performance.

Or at least a performance that matches the key of the backing track.

Whether you like how it sounds or not, it’s unobjectionable that these tools had allowed a lot of artists to get great success in music when otherwise they would probably never even give it a shot.

More Music is Good for Musicians

With more people trying their luck at music, the music industry had no alternative but to keep growing, and that has always been great for musicians.

More music means more demand for session players, composers, arrangers, promoters, mixers, sound engineers, live venues, managers, music hardware and software companies, etc.

And if AI ends up being as good as humans at creating music, that music will still be consumed by real people, and still generate job demand in the distribution channels.

While the long-term capabilities of AI are impossible to predict, there will still be the need for someone to guide this technology at first.

I like to think about AI as a performance enhancer for workers.

Think of a composer having to meet a deadline and being stuck with a blank music sheet.

What if he or she was able to just spin a dozen ideas assisted by an AI and start working from there?

Productivity will go up, more work will be done in less time.

And more music, as I already said, just means more jobs for musicians.

New licensing opportunities

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has taken the music industry by storm, with Rolling Stone Magazine suggesting it will be the most significant disruptor since digital downloads.

Recently, the industry was buzzing about "Heart On My Sleeve," a track that used AI to clone the voices of popular artists Drake and The Weeknd. The song quickly went viral, garnering over 20 million streams before being taken down from streaming services.

This event raised important questions about artist rights and ownership.

The problem is that AI tools can only create music based on what they have learned. In this case, the technology was trained on the musicians' voices and creative expression.

The music industry must address this issue, ensuring that generative AI tools learn only from sources they have permission to access and that artists are properly compensated.

This presents an opportunity for music rightholders to create a new licensing model. Artists and songwriters must give their consent, as they do with sync licensing. If this becomes the norm, it could revolutionize the way artists and music producers work together, leading to exciting new possibilities.

The future of AI in the music industry is just beginning, and the possibilities are endless.

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