AI makes music now, but what can’t it do?

AI makes music now — but what can’t it do? Two weeks ago we talked about how indie artists can use AI (Artifical Intelligence) to help them make original music. It seems certain that some music composers will have a harder time finding work once AI takes some of the paying jobs. Therefore, it makes plenty of sense to take a look at what AI still can’t do on its own. Here’s some of what we know.


1) AI still can’t arrange its songs

After Sony proudly declared their “system that learns music styles from a huge database of songs” had created two original tracks, they were quick to point out that “French composer Benoît Carré arranged the songs.”

Anyone who’s composed their own music knows that the arrangement is crucial to a song. It is the musical equivalent of an author revising the first draft of a novel.

Wiki gives the definition of musical arrangement as, “a musical reconceptualization of a previously composed work. It may differ from the original work by means of reharmonization, melodic paraphrasing, orchestration, or development of the formal structure.”

This means there’s no telling how little Sony’s AI might have had to do with the end result. It also leads us to Number 2:


2) AI seems to make repetitious music

This isn’t surprising, given that many other music brains have already blown the cover off of how technology continues to make music bland, but when the definition of ‘musical arrangement’ also includes the important note, “Arranging is the art of giving an existing melody musical variety,” it’s hard not to infer that Monsieur Carré was employed because Sony’s AI originals were boring.

3) AI can’t write lyrics

Guess what else Benoît Carré wrote, in addition to all of the songs’ arrangment? Yup.


4) AI doesn’t make popular music

For whatever reason, be it prejudice against machines, a matter of taste, or maybe a failure on the part of Flow Records to hype their singles, people don’t give a darn about the world’s first AI music.

The very first track, “Daddy’s Car,” has 2.1m views on YouTube where Sony published it and just 15k ‘likes.’ At the company’s official SoundCloud page, listed above, the combined listens of both new songs still barely gets over 100,000.

Considering the historic importance of these pieces of music, that’s pathetic.

What’s more, since 2016 the Sony Labs team has published their entire album of AI-created music, appropriately titled, “Hello World.” The whole thing is freely available for listening here. While approximately 13,000 people have visited that YT page, the total number of listens of just the very first track on the album, “Valise,” amount today to only 360 plays.

No matter your stance on the AI situation, that’s a little sad.


So don’t hang up your musician’s hat yet, indie composers! Your real competition isn’t coming from a motherboard anytime soon. (In fact, you can probably use it for yourself until it does).

-S. McCauley


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