In recent months, it’s become hard to discuss art without discussing artificial intelligence – whether it’s AI-generated images winning photography awards or debating the nature of art and human creativity online. Recently, we’ve seen an explosion of AI-generated music, and while some of it is decent, the Grammys have now made clear the award is reserved for human creators – for now, anyway.
Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr told Grammys.com that while the academy will allow AI music and content to be submitted, “the Grammys will only be allowed to go to human creators who have contributed creatively in the appropriate categories”.
This came after AI music was thrust into the spotlight thanks to an anonymously-uploaded track called Heart On My Sleeve, featuring AI recreations of Drake and The Weeknd, which exploded on Youtube and TikTok.
The song (it was a banger, to be fair, and sounded very realistic) even made its way onto major platforms like Spotify and Apple Music before being unceremoniously pulled from all platforms. Following these events, rapper Ice Cube went public and vowed to sue any AI creator that uses his voice – a stance that seems to be the general consensus from most artists in regard to generative AI in the music industry.
Sign of the times
Mason did say that these current rules stand for now, and hints at a possibility that this might change as artificial intelligence continues to destabilize so many aspects of our culture and media. The news should especially come as a delight to Drake, who went on a bit of a tirade when Heart On My Sleeve went viral.
The Academy CEO also said that “if there is an AI voice singing the song or AI instrumentation, we’ll consider it”, and that in terms of songwriting, the song has to be “mostly” written by a human, with the same going for performance categories – “only a human performer can be considered for a Grammy”.
These are some pretty loose distinctions, but it does seem like the Academy is taking a step in the right direction in dealing with this whole new wave of art – if you consider it art. While I may not personally regard generative AI projects as art, that doesn’t necessarily stop these projects from being, well… good.
I think we’re only a couple of years away – if that – from seeing a whole new category bubble up in music awards (and other industry awards) as people implement AI into their work or whip up an entire ‘artist’ created entirely using AI. After all, the popularity of digitally-created ‘Vocaloid’ artists in Japan proves that there could be a long-standing precedent for AI-generated musical personalities to succeed.
As it stands, as long as any music facilitated by artificial intelligence fits the parameters listed, it can be submitted for a Grammy – but the AI won’t be considered a performer or songwriter. It’s a tricky line for the Academy to walk; while a lot of folks in the music industry may absolutely hate AI, artists like Grimes have fully embraced it.
All we can do is recalibrate how we think about awards like the Grammys, and make a designated space for this burgeoning ‘artform’. Having a ‘best AI song’ category might seem silly, but perhaps it’s the fairest way to acknowledge the work of AI creators without detracting from human musicians.
We’re at the very beginning of a whole new era of… everything. Every aspect of our lives is getting a sprinkle of ChatGPT here or there, and while some of us may not be happy about it, all we can do is move forward. The technology is out there, AI music is already very popular, and at the end of the day, this isn’t a problem you can just magically lawsuit away.