But how are TikTokkers making them and could they ruin the music industry?
TikTok has quickly become a place to discover new music and emerging artists. However, in recent weeks, the app has been rife with songs from one source – Artificial Intelligence.
From Harry Styles covering Taylor Swift to the slightly unnerving resurrections of Kurt Cobain and Freddie Mercury, AI covers songs are growing increasingly popular on the platform.
The music is made in the spirit of light entertainment, and creators are forming positive online communities around them. But what impact could the technological advancement have on the music industry itself?
AI covers are brand-new tracks created solely using computer programs. To produce original content, AI harnesses computer systems to match or improve the abilities or, in this case, the musical talents, of human beings.
To mimic the sound of a person’s voice, AI is fed massive amounts of data, from old YouTube clips and interview audio to an artist’s back catalogue.
Ariana Grande’s computer-generated voice was among early examples of AI covers created using DiffSVC. The system received audio until the pop star’s singing voice was (almost) perfectly replicated.
The Grande cover quickly sparked thousands of copies. Leading AI music to trend online, primarily on TikTok, where a community of creators has quickly formed. Creator, Musicfy (@officialai_covers), who has almost 100,000 followers, thinks people find covers: “refreshing and entertaining.”
But, considering that they are racking up millions of views, is AI a threat to music’s future? Or is it the opposite?
Another AI cover creator, @Aimusicc on TikTok, believes AI to be “the start of a new era in technology, as we have never seen something like this before.”
Arts journalist, Keira Brown shares a similar, if less optimistic sentiment. She said: “There’s no doubt about it, we’re moving forward but we’re now moving into this transformative technology space which is a little bit uncertain.”
Why are they so popular?
For creators and consumers, the main draw with AI is that listeners can hear just about anything they can imagine. Harry Styles and Taylor Swift may never collaborate in reality, but through AI, they can, and something arguably original is created.
Whether it’s the seemingly lost tracks of deceased artists and letting listeners hear them again or the ability to hear someone’s younger voice after decades, things people have only theorised about before, can now become a reality. Which is the ultimate appeal of AI-produced music, but where will the line be drawn?
Moral issues may arise from the covers, especially those involving artists who have passed away.
On the contrary, TikTokker, musician and music producer, @viralaimusic, said, “I think this new idea of being able to use other artist’s voices, even artists that have passed away, is such a unique and amazing thing which leads to endless possibilities.”
But how will AI cover songs impact the music industry?
Arts journalist, Keira Brown, said, at the moment, AI cover songs are unlikely to be a worry for music’s future. “I feel like technology’s not quite there,” she said. “It’s not the genuine article. I feel like it’s a massive concern but not presently.”
In the legal and musical landscape, it’s a different story. Nick Cave has described it as a “grotesque mockery”.
While record labels are scrambling to find their stance as the technology is so new. It’s difficult because AI covers could be classed as fair use. The voices heard on the covers are not the voices of the artists but highly-intelligent computers.
Ultimately, the legal side of AI-generated music is a moral grey area. Whilst the creations and ideas are completely original, they use someone else’s voice and lyrics which artists and record labels own.
According to a report from the Financial Times, Universal Music Group has requested that the likes of Spotify block AI companies from using their artists as they attempt to train the technology.
UMG feel the need to sue and control the situation because, as they see it, their artists’ property is being tampered with.
However, despite their best efforts, as happened with the introductions of iPods and autotune, it is likely that AI will just become another cog in the industry that everyone within it will have to adjust to.