“Music inspires us. We believe in the power of music to inspire”... so proclaims the new Apple Music for Business landing page. As a concept, music for business is booming, but when brands talk about ‘music’ can we take them at face value? Is it really ‘music’, stripped of all context, that allows brands to build emotional connections and affinity - or is it the people who make that music?
As a lover and creator of music myself, I see musicians as creatively equal to filmmakers. Their purpose is not only to be synced to film or video. Unfortunately, a lot of the time when brands use music it is relatively anonymously and without proper compensation for the artist. The rise of AI music will place the value of human musical compositions back on its story-telling ability, rather than its ability to provide a neutral backdrop for others' work.
Content needs a soundtrack to truly bring it to life. But the proliferation of storytellers on YouTube and TikTok and ever-growing need for safe-to-use, contextually relevant music to accompany online content has left us wanting; not only is there now far too much content, but also devices, and both physical and virtual spaces, that need accompanying music, and the choices out there don’t always deliver in the way we want them to. Content creators don’t have enough time—or money—to license or to commission backing soundtracks for every video they post. YouTube hasn’t succeeded in creating a fully ‘royalty-free’ music library, though they’ve tried. So creators and brands resort to stock music.
Although it can be of an incredibly high quality, composed by very talented people who would probably rather be focusing on writing the next rock opera rather than for a commercial incentive, stock music is a quick fix.
This is where AI composed music truly shines. Despite concerns about AI stealing the jobs of real artists, in this space, it offers a huge benefit to musicians. Rather than creating music for royalty-free music libraries, musicians will be given free rein to create, compose, distribute, and perform in a way that is meaningful to them and not some faceless brand or playlist. AI music will never achieve the majesty of Bohemian Rhapsody, not for its sonic attributes, but for its iconic cultural status that is innately human.
And even if AI did create a sonically “perfect” track in a vacuum, it can never replace or recreate the cultural significance of a song that has been written by a human. Cultural currency and sonic currency can and should be measured separately now that AI can create and most likely commoditize purely acoustic “filler” stock music.
It has been said that the invention of the washing machine changed the world more than the internet. By freeing up time that would have otherwise been spent doing hours and hours of laundry, the revolutionary new tech allowed women to enter the labour market and fundamentally change society forever.
This is how I see AI music’s role in the creative ecosystem; rather than taking jobs, it frees up huge amounts of time - time that can now be spent by musicians to put their abundant talent and expression towards songwriting, symphonies and storymaking.
Taishi Fukuyama is the co-founder and chief operating officer at Evoke Music