Thursday, January 19, 2023

Nick Cave has Nothing to Fear

Nick Cave doesn't like ChatGPT.

Somebody asked Chat to compose a song in the style of Nick Cave. Nick didn't like it, calling it "replication as travesty" among other things.

I think Nick and other successful singer-songwriters have nothing to fear.

First of all, replication is nothing new. Beginner musicians imitate the styles of their favorite artists all the time. The good ones eventually find their own voices. But what about the wannabes that just get REALLY good at emulating their hero's style? Think "tribute band". Nick doesn't fear them. Nick Cave fans will buy Nick's music, even if a tribute band sounds just like him. Having that tribute band use an AI doesn't change that.

It might be a little dicier if somebody uses an AI to compose a song/painting/whatever in the style of a long-dead artist and claims that it is a newly-found genuine creation of the original artist. This is also nothing new. It's called forgery, and people have been dealing with that for as long as there has been an art market. I can't see reducing the cost of entry into the forgery profession will lead to a lot more fraud being perpetrated. If anything, it will make consumers even more suspicious of unlikely "discoveries", which is probably a good thing.

Nick's primary complaint seems to be that good music that touches a human's heart can only come from another human heart (usually a tortured one). Bad news, Nick. There's plenty of successful music out there that does not come from the creator's heart, and has no intention of touching the listener's heart. In my youth, they called it "bubble gum music". Cheery, maybe danceable, maybe a catchy riff that you find yourself humming. Think Monkeys or TV commercials. I suspect Nick wouldn't care much one way or the other if that music started coming from AIs instead of good-but-not-great-musicians-who-need-to-eat.

Is serious music in danger of being AI generated?

Well ... maybe? There are plenty of successful singers who are not songwriters. They mostly get their songs from non-performing songwriters. I'm sure that some of those songwriters are tortured artists whose blood and sweat come out in their songs. A lot of others are fairly non-creative mediocre songwriters who figured out a formula and got good at imitation. Give an uninspired song to a really successful singer, and you can have a hit. Is this something that bothers serious songwriters? Probably. There are way more songwriters, both serious and formulaic, than there are successful singers. Maybe the uninspired songwriters have something to fear with AI replacing them. But is anybody that worried about them? I suspect not.

But what about serious non-performing songwriters who really do pour their blood, sweat, and tears into their work. Will AIs replace them?

Maybe. But they have a hard enough time already getting their songs on the air. I have a hard time believing it will make much of a difference. If .00001% of the population lose their jobs doing what they love, I guess that's kind of sad, but I wouldn't call it a tragedy. The number of artisans creating elegant and artistic horse saddles is a small fraction of what it was 150 years ago. Times change.

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