The data shows that more music is being released currently than ever before. We have streamlined every element of the music-making and releasing process to such an extent that usual boundaries are being removed. But does this also mean that we’re now inundated, and it is making it harder for artists to reach the number of ears significant enough to turn a profit in the Spotify age?
In a recent IFPI report, it was revealed that we are listening to an average of 20.1 hours of music each week. This means that we’re currently listening to more music than ever before. However, the increase in available music has far outstripped this. We are listening to more music, but in relative terms, we are listening to a lower share of what is being created.
AI is only set to increase this. “We want to democratise this whole process. So that everybody in the world who is excited about music creation can have the same access as professional musicians to express themselves,” Yihao Chen, the founder of the new AI-music creation app ITOKA, told us. This increased efficiency may well limit current hurdles, such as financing issues and access for many.
However, even progress can come with its pitfalls if it isn’t planned out properly. While levelling the playing field of music – especially in an age when it is increasingly being commandeered by the middle classes and access to necessary platforms is limited for working-class artists – sounds like a great thing, there is a risk that the process is democratised to such an extent that the industry is suddenly flooded even further than the current congested levels. If everyone can make a little bit of money from the music industry, will it make it harder for anyone to make a living?
“This is a very reasonable concern,” Chen agrees. “I believe that, actually, it helps a lot with the development of the music industry and changes how people monetise music. So, if you take a closer look at the music that we’re listening to on a daily basis, you will already see that there is a lot of isomorphic music content out there. Everybody is using the Canon D.” It is his rationale that the cream will still rise from the crop, and those who are truly serious about their artistry will be able to overcome the content overload while others fade into the background of macrocosmic ‘content’ blur. Meanwhile, AI might help others on their journey towards the top by providing quick income channels where currently there are hurdles.
This libertarianism, he claims, will also help to shake up the creative side of music. “Everyone is using the same chords, similar melodies, similar rhythm, same thing with synthesisers all the time, right? A lot of people are just getting lazy about being creative. I believe that one of the benefits of the power of AI is that we are pushing people forward when they are thinking about being creative in music, right? We don’t want to make people lazy. If you are making music similar to the quality of our AI technologies, you are all out of luck, right?”
He continues: “You have to make sure that you are putting a lot of effort and a lot of thought into making music so that you are standing out from the content created by AI.” While that might sound blunt, Chen is essentially saying that songs that are already partly regurgitated and half-cooked – the sort of shit we are forced to run away from daily – will be needled out by AI. Because, in essence, the rehashing of soulless popular music presently is no different to a slowed-down incarnation of AI anyway.
When the technology really takes hold, AI will be able to produce these basic songs in four minutes, forcing a new invigoration of differentiation upon the music industry. If you can’t beat the machine, then c’est la vie. But that doesn’t mean the machine will take over. We still love a hell of a lot of mono four-track tape recordings that wouldn’t pass muster from a technical standpoint now. Still, they work their way towards cherished additions to our daily lives by virtue of their originality and soul if all the technology between now and then hasn’t rendered them obsolete. It is unlikely even something as novel as AI ever will.
However, this philosophy also has pitfalls. One of which is central to why the ‘nepo-baby’ narrative has recently become amplified. Chen’s implication is that even in a world where people with no traditional music training can make a reasonable song within minutes and upload it to a platform, the most worthy music will still be heard. But the issue that many struggling musicians might point out is that although the ‘making’ process might be more democratised, the actual ‘sharing’ process is more congested than ever, and only the chosen few get enough marketing to be able to thrust their music up the algorithms towards the masses.
How this hurdle is overcome both by individuals and the music industry at large is still very much in balance. We all want to live in a world where artistic brilliance is honoured, but with over 100,000 tracks being uploaded to Spotify daily, the waters are rather tricky to wade through. This is why it is more important than ever for the traditional gatekeepers of music to be transparent, truthful and independent. This is largely why Far Out remains an entirely independent publication so that no editorial lines are swayed.
And as for upcoming artists, the battle to be heard is increasingly difficult on the crowded streaming front, which makes it all the more important for the current small venue crisis to be solved. Many of the biggest breakthrough artists in recent years achieved their current success status by playing gigs extensively and earning a local fanbase that then helped to give them headway in the crowded global market of the online universe.
And at recent conventions, many leading experts in the field of music promotion have been encouraging SNYC licensing as a way to earn money as a musician. Sync royalties basically entail creating music for specific purposes, such as TV shows, trailers, video games and other forms of media. Experts argue that the revenue generated from this can help create capital for musicians to tour more, promote more, or get more studio access.
While all these factors might be helpful, it would seem that artists will face an uphill battle in the exponentially increasing content flood. So, consumers and music lovers must play a part in helping in the old-fashioned organic ways of going to shows, buying records, promoting where possible and all the other tried and tested ways worthy artists are known to make money.