Rhythms and Algorithms: How AI is Shaping the Music Industry

By Savannah Throneberry

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has substantially impacted the music scene in the last few years. Individuals have used AI to impersonate popular artists, like Drake, both in sound and style, leaving listeners perplexed as to whether they are listening to a published piece or a well disguised dupe. As a result, artists in the music industry now face the tough task of embracing or rejecting artificial intelligence in music creation. An AI generated song titled “Heart on My Sleeve,” was created by an anonymous TikTok user in April of this year. [1]The song perfectly mimicked the voice and style of popular artists Drake and the Weekend garnering mass popularity. [2]After amassing millions of views and likes on TikTok and being published on countless music streaming services, “Heart on My Sleeve” quickly caught the negative attention of Universal Music Group (UMG), one of the largest music labels in the market. [3] With swift and fierce action, UMG had “Heart on My Sleeve” completely wiped from the internet on the basis of intellectual property concerns.[4] While the initial claim was one of copyright concerns, Louis Tompros, an intellectual property Harvard Law lecturer, pointed out that while the contention over human creation is something that has yet to be fully fleshed out in courts, the better argument in this instance is a publicity argument. [5]A right of publicity protects famous artists from musical impersonations. [6]

Whatever the rationale may be for its illegality, efforts like that of UMG are nothing more than a band-aid on a breaking dam as AI generated music continues to trickle into the mainstream eye. It is only a matter of time before the floodgates burst and the lawmakers and legal community are faced with where to draw the line on AI generated music. Some artists, like Drake and the Weekend, at the behest of their music label, have showed clear separation from any involvement in this new tool. [7] Other artists, like Grimes, former partner of Elon Musk, have showed enthusiastic support towards the use of AI in the music space. [8] Grimes, in response to an article written in the aftermath of the AI generated song replicating Drake tweeted, “I’ll split 50% royalties on any successful AI generated song that uses my voice. Same deal as I would with any artist i collab with. Feel free to use my voice without penalty. I have no label and no legal bindings.” [9] Grimes also shared her distain for copyright and a belief that all art should be freely shared. [10] As the first artist to offer royalty sharing for AI generated music, it seems there is a divide in artist opinions on the validity of AI generated music. AI continues to alter the landscape as large tech companies begin using AI as a tool to aid artists in the creation of music.

Google, in partnership with YouTube announced, on November 16th 2023, a new AI music generation model, DeepMind’s Lyria. [11] This AI music generation tool is targeted at allowing users access to a wide range of tools from instruments to vocals and “giving users more nuanced control of the output’s style and performance.” [12] This use of AI in music is meant to converge technology with the creativity of the artist. [13] While there still might be concerns over how much of the creation is human author and how much is AI, this concern is the crux of all copyright. Tompros illuminates the fact that “the balance between artists’ rights in protecting what they have done and artists’ rights in creating something new is exactly the balance that has underlaid copyright law since it was embedded in the Constitution.”  [14]

With Google’s Lyria software, there is likely a strong argument for it being no different than a tablet application for producing digital art in the art space. Whatever the courts decide, the convergence of music and technology has and will continue to challenge established norms as well as, for better or worse, shape the future of music.






[1] Joe Coscarelli, An A.I. Hit of Fake ‘Drake’ and ‘The Weeknd’ Rattles the Music World, New York Times (Apr. 19, 2023), https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/19/arts/music/ai-drake-the-weeknd-fake.html.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Rachel Reed, AI created a song mimicking the work of Drake and The Weeknd. What does that mean for copyright law?, Harvard Law Today, (May 2, 2023), https://hls.harvard.edu/today/ai-created-a-song-mimicking-the-work-of-drake-and-the-weeknd-what-does-that-mean-for-copyright-law/.

[6] Id.

[7] Coscarelli, supra note 1.

[8] Antonio Pequeño IV, Grimes Helps Artists Distribute Songs Using Her AI Voice—If They Split Royalties. Here’s How It Works, Forbes (June 12, 2023), https://www.forbes.com/sites/antoniopequenoiv/2023/06/12/grimes-helps-artists-distribute-songs-using-her-ai-voice–if-they-pay-royalties-heres-how-it-works/?sh=6059441b49ae.

[9]  @Grimezsz, Twitter (Apr. 23, 2023, 9:02 PM), https://twitter.com/Grimezsz/status/1650304051718791170?lang=en.

[10] Pequeño IV, supra note 8.

[11] Transforming the Future of Music Creation, Google (Nov. 16, 2023), https://deepmind.google/discover/blog/transforming-the-future-of-music-creation/?utm_source=bensbites&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=daily-digest-microsoft-made-google-sing.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Reed, supra note 5.



Image Source: https://www.freepik.com/premium-ai-image/robot-playing-violin-dark-room_61548717.htm