Musicians face an artificial intelligence nightmare from the rise of ChatGPT-like song generators, the world’s biggest record label has said.
Universal Music warned that AI-created music threatened “widespread and lasting harm” to artists and threatened a Napster-style crisis without robust copyright protections.
So-called generative AI models have already caused uproar among illustrators for using human-produced work without compensation to create art. The rise of ChatGPT, which produces authentic-seeming poems and essays, has caused concern from publishers about a tidal wave of AI-generated material.
Both Google and OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, have developed software that creates vocals and music in the style of certain artists and genres.
OK, so is this the songocalpyse? Let’s assume yes. We’ve now got an unlimited supply of mildly inventive but largely derivative songs and music. This will screw over all those who produce largely derivative and mildly inventive songs – just about all songwriters.
Is this bad for society?
Well, back to basics then. Songs are a public good. Very difficult to produce one of any quality. But once produced anyone can copy it, that copy does not diminish the amount of it available for any one else. It’s non-rivalrous and non-excludable – a public good. We tend to think that things like that will be underproduced. For if the profit ain’t there then the incentive to do the difficult bit ain’t.
So, we institute copyrights, to provide the excludability and thus produce a possible profit, the incentive and the production.
So, where are we with AI songs? We’ve got no constraint upon supply any more, do we? We’ve moved songs from a public good to a non-economic good. There’s no constraint upon supply (OK, a little bit, the cost of running the AI but Pfft) therefore there’s no need to the profit, nor the incentive, to generate supply, is there?