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AI song generation – the value of economic basics

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?

Abolish copyright.

We’re done.


Yet it also threatens to derail a blockbuster rights deal that would land the group a $500m (£413m) payday.

So, they’re looking to sell the rights. Hipgnosis and the like. It looks like a rich, rich, price:

By comparison, Bob Dylan’s songs are estimated to have sold for around $300m. Bruce Springsteen sold his back catalogue for a reported $550m in 2021, though this included both recorded and publishing rights.

The auction includes Pink Floyd’s recorded rights but not the publishing rights. This means that while the buyer would gain control of the recorded songs, they would not own the compositions themselves.

Ah, no, that’s a ludicrous price. It also explains this:

In a further sign of deteriorating relations, Waters this week told the Telegraph that he has re-recorded The Dark Side of the Moon from scratch, cutting his bandmates out in the process.

Those rights would only include the old version, not the new. As with Taylor Swift re-recording her albums.

Rights come in a number of flavours. And trying to sell the ones just running out, partially being replaced, for near half a billion does seem steep, no? Especially when the longer running ones on the songs themselves, the ones with 70 plus years still to go, aren’t included?

The insouciance of “got a gig”

You know, just like, walked in:

By his mid-teens he had dropped out of Dobbins High School in Philadelphia and teamed up with Gamble as the singing duo Kenny and Tommy.

Finding little success, he made his way to Harlem, where he got a gig in the house band at the Apollo Theatre, backing visiting singers such as Sam Cooke.

Yes, yes, I know, there were more showbands and backing groups around then. But still, that’s quite some gig to just “get”.

Now I know I’m old – or at least out of touch

Maxi Jazz obituary
Frontman of Faithless whose thoughtful, life-affirming lyrics were in contrast to the usual hedonistic banalities of dance music

I’m so out of touch with parts of contemporary culture – here, popular beat combos – that someone can play long enough to mature enough into a Times obituary without my ever having heard of them.

Sure, so there’re many a Deputy Lord Lieutenant and WWII hero, potter or restauranteur that gain the august obit without my ever having known of their existence. But a pop musician? Shows how out of touch I am……

Wouldn’t you want to hear this?

The sound was so distinctive and influential that in 1966 the Beatles booked a two-week session to record their next album at Stax’s studios, but at the last minute the session was cancelled. “We nearly recorded in Memphis with Jim Stewart,” George Harrison wrote to a friend at the time. “We would all like it a lot, but too many people get insane with money ideas at the mention of the word Beatles and so it fell through.”

Not for me but sounds like a fun job

Full Job Description
I am a hip hop/pop rock artist based out of Southwest Florida with a loyal and rapidly growing fanbase. I would like to hire a blog writer with focus on the hip hop/pop rock music scene. The music that will be written about will be similar to the music I produce, so as to be a means of garnering more attention towards the genre and my page. For this specific job I need someone who is as passionate about the craft as I am. Here are my criteria:

1) Have you reviewed my music? If no, see below.

2) Is this a genre of music you are familiar with?

3) Is this genre of music something you can see yourself being passionate about?

Job Type: Contract

Pay: From $75,000.00 per year


4 hour shift
Supplemental pay types:

Bonus pay
COVID-19 considerations:
Due to the fact that the job is entirely remote there is no need for any COVID-19 precautions.

Work Location: Remote

Actually, given the market for writers at the moment, that’s a damn good job offer. Given the age of the readership here if there are any grandkids into this sort of popular beat combo then I’d recommend trying to apply. That’s £60k a year, which is more than the London newspapers pay for anything but their top stars.

Really, that’s an exceptionally good offer in fact.

This is probably rather unkind of me

It might well be wrong too – after all, my musical experience got me to Grade 8, which I failed twice, then gave up. And yet:

As the other half of Florence + the Machine, Isabella Summers plays stadiums and works with the likes of Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson. Now the film world can’t get enough of the musical sensation

The Florence bit, hell of a pair of lungs there and who doesn’t like a redhead? But I’ve always thought the songs themselves were the weak bit.

Perhaps this is just personal taste but they annoy me in the same way that jazz noodling does (say, from sorta the Dudley Moore Trio-style stuff onwards, although there’s some part of their stuff I do like). Might be musically very accomplished, in fact is, but there’s no “there” there. Possibly great atmospherics but no structure to them.

I tend to think that a song should be, well, a song. Bit like a story – we want a beginning, middle, end, a structure. Possibly this is also why I dislike so much “literary” writing because so much of that is done for the effect of the words themselves and so little on that being a story bit.

OK, fair play, this is just a grumpy old man view but it is mine. I have indeed heard Florence and the Machine on radio and so on. And my reaction has long been great lungs there, could do better with the songs. Shrug.

The Weird Al Pilgrimage


Weird Al graduated from high school at 16 and went to study architecture at California Polytechnic State University.
If the child is father of the man, Weird Al’s tastes as a teenager revealed the genetic code of his career. He adored British artists such as Elton John and Monty Python, spent Sunday nights listening to novelty hits on The Dr Demento Show and devoured the humor of Mad magazine.

Now this story might have benefited from some compression and time transformation but it might even have happened exactly so.

I once drove from New Orleans to Chicago, overnight (well, more than just the night). And we drove through the Dr. Demento show of something like “100 best songs ever recorded”. Number 1, at the top of the show, was Weird Al as above (although a failing memory tries to insist that it was just Al and the accordion, no other musicians).

Early 80s, winter 1982 maybe?

Couple of decades later I’m living in SLO and try to investigate a bit. Because the story is that the track – Al’s breakthrough one – was recorded in a bathroom at Cal Poly. But which one? Sadly no one seemed to know – or no one I knew, despite my knowing a few professorial types and the types of professorial types who would know something like that.

Pity, because it would be a rather fun place of pilgrimage.

So, to the question – does anyone know?

And if you play it backwards, the car comes back

With the advent of self driving cars it’s into a matter of time before there’s a country and western song about a guy who’s truck leaves him


Perhaps Blues, rather than C&W but “Woke up this mornin’, my Tesla done left me” might work. Heck, Gospel, “Take Me To The Rivian”.

Etc, etc, if only we still had Lewis Grizzard for those country titles……or even that other form of music, western.

I’ve always wondered about this

Bono has revealed the death threats he has faced during his career after crossing swords with the IRA, Dublin mobsters and the American far right.

In his soon-to-be released memoir U2’s lead singer recounts how the fear of violence has stalked the band with figures including Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, stoking anger against their pro-peace stance.

There’s a verse to Van Diemen’s Land which appears on the sleeve notes but not the track.

This song is about John Boyle O’Reilly, the leader of an 1864 Irish uprising after the Great Famine. He was banished to Australia for rebelling against the government.

That last verse?

Still the gunman rules and the widows pay
A scarlet coat now a black beret
They thought that that blood and sacrifice
Could out of death bring forth a life

Yeah, that’d piss Gerry off.

I’ve wondered, ever since I bought the album on release, whether there was a certain pressure over that last verse. Still don’t know of course…..


That’s Jimmy Cliff screwed then:

Jamaica’s broadcasting regulator has banned music and TV broadcasts deemed to glorify or promote criminal activity, violence, drug use, scamming and weapons.

The government has said the ban is meant to cut back on material that “could give the wrong impression that criminality is an accepted feature of Jamaican culture and society”.

Oh, so family matters, does it?

Background, culture, expectations?

Obviously you didn’t become a gangster like your character Ivan in the film, but there was some common ground. You were both country boys dreaming of a music career.
Yes, when I came to Kingston I lived in areas that were gangster-infested, and to be quite honest, the only thing that stopped me from joining those gangs full-time was I didn’t know where I would bury my head if my family heard that I was in Kingston firing a gun. I would pray for the Earth to open and take me in.

Jimmy Cliff.

What’s the point of being a musician any more?

Three women who were fans of the indie rock group accused Butler of making unwanted sexual advances and demands between 2016 and 2020 in interactions that they deemed inappropriate because of gaps in age and unequal power dynamics.

If the only groupies you can touch are those the same age as you?

Two of the women said the alleged abuse had an emotional toll in part due to the transactional nature of their sexual interactions with Butler.


“I felt incredibly low,” the woman told Pitchfork. “The toll of having to keep everything secret, constantly pushing my needs aside in order to appease him, lack of boundaries, and the guilt of being the other woman was getting too hard to ignore.”

Fun point about castrati

Not that Plant was, but the point still stands. The female vocalists they use here. Couple to get the range (Plant has a v unusual range for any one voice). But Plant’s voice has vastly more power to it than any of these. Which was the point of castrati – to get male power in the higher range.

BTW, when’s someone going to see Mermans in Kinshasa? That’s not bad harp playing at all.