Google and Universal herald the era of deep fake music

No, oddly enough, AutoTune is not the worst thing that has happened to the music industry in recent decades. The worst, as the cliché assures, is always yet to come. And yes, if you think Artificial Intelligence is involved in a daunting new experiment, you’re right.

The news jumped this week to the salmon pages of the Financial Times: Google and Universal Music are exploring the possibility of using AI algorithms to synthesize and commercially exploit the voice of the most representative singers of the label. That is to say, both groups would like to cover with a certain “artistic layer” what would not cease to be a deep fake and earn money with it.

Under the terms of this deal, copyright holders (i.e. artists) would be paid for the use of their voice in all sorts of artificial creations (minus Universal’s commission of course). ), which would be available to any company that, for example, wanted to use the voice of Alejandro Sanz to promote their new cereals, or that of daddy yankee to convince us that we have to try a new brand of fuel.

In principle, only the singers who accepted this transfer of rights would charge for the use of their voice, but it would not be the first time that the draconian contract of a record company hid unexpected surprises.

It is not the first time that such an idea has been put on the table and in the past, we have witnessed similar experiments. The voice of Frank Sinatra has been used in a cover of the hip-hop song “Gangsta’s Paradise”while that of Johnny Cash appears on the new single from «Barbie Girl». As for Kenny G, what can we say… it’s Kenny G. At the moment the conversations between the two companies are in the initial phases and there is no product that is going to be launched in the short term. However, the objective of creating this service remains in the medium term and everything indicates that yes or yes, this is something that will end up happening.

Not everyone however agrees, even within the industry itself. Robert KynclCEO of Warner Music Group expressed his opposition to this new way of generating income coinciding with the presentation of the results of the last quarter: “There is nothing more valuable to an artist than his voice and protecting his voice is protecting his livelihood and protecting his personality,” he said.

But the truth is that we are facing a phenomenon that will hardly be able to stop. A few months ago, a song produced entirely by an algorithm that imitated the voices of Drake and The Weeknd, went viral, becoming one of the most listened to on TikTok and YouTube. Universal got it removed on the grounds that it infringed copyright…but for how long will it be able to keep doing it? So the idea is simple: if you can’t beat your enemy, join him and earn money.

And what do the singers think of all this? There is everything. And although a large number have publicly positioned themselves against the use of deep fakes, others like Grimes have stated that if users are willing to pay royalties, there is no problem. And neither is Paul McCartney, of course, who announced a few months ago that he would use an AI to create a new Beatles song, recreating John Lennon’s voice from a 1978 tape.

Those who lose, of course, although they don’t know it at the moment, are the artists themselves, who will be able to earn money in the short term by giving up the rights to their own voice, but in the medium and long term they will no longer be necessary to release new songs and albums.

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