A newly released song generated using artificial intelligence (AI) to imitate the voices of Canadian singers Drake and The Weeknd has been removed from streaming services after gaining millions of listens in just a few days. The controversial technology behind the track, titled “Heart On My Sleeve,” has sparked a debate on its implications in the music industry.
Copyright Violation Leads to Removal
The song was made available on popular streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music last Friday but was swiftly taken down after Universal Music Group (UMG), which publishes both artists through its Republic Records subsidiary, accused it of violating copyrights. The song features AI simulating the voices of Drake and The Weeknd as they exchange verses about actor and pop star Selena Gomez, who previously dated The Weeknd.
AI Technology Trained on Artist Voices
The song’s creator, who goes by the username @ghostwriter, claimed to have used software trained on the voices of both artists to create the track. In a post on TikTok, the user stated, “I used AI to make a Drake song feat. The Weeknd,” and added, “This is just the beginning.”
Concerns Over Unauthorized Use of Music
UMG controls around one-third of the global music industry and has been increasingly worried about the use of AI to produce music similar to that of popular artists without their permission. The company sent an email to AFP stating that training AI software without artists’ consent raises questions about which side of history all stakeholders in the music industry want to be on, whether it’s the side of artists, fans, and human creative expression or the side of deep fakes, fraud, and denying artists their rightful compensation.
Streaming Platforms Called to Action
In March, UMG wrote to several streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple, requesting that they block AI services from extracting melodies and lyrics from copyrighted songs. The move came after the company became aware of AI-generated music on these platforms.
Legal and Ethical Responsibility of Platforms
UMG’s efforts to curb the unauthorized use of its copyrighted music by AI systems have been welcomed by other players in the music industry. In a statement to AFP, the company commended its platform partners for recognizing the need to be part of the solution. The statement also stressed the legal and ethical responsibility of platforms to prevent their services from being used to harm artists.
The Debate Over AI in Music
The use of AI in music has been a subject of discussion in the industry, with some praising its potential and others criticizing it for copyright infringement. For instance, David Guetta recently used AI to add a vocal in the style of rapper Eminem to a song for a live show, but he said he would not release it commercially. In an interview with the BBC, Guetta likened AI to musical instruments such as the electric guitar, bass synthesizer, drum machine, and sampler, which led to revolutionary musical genres such as rock ‘n’ roll and hip hop.
The removal of the AI-generated song imitating Drake and The Weeknd from streaming services has sparked a debate on the use of AI in the music industry. While some see the potential for AI to revolutionize music, others have raised concerns about copyright infringement and the potential harm to artists. UMG’s efforts to prevent the unauthorized use of its copyrighted music by AI systems have been welcomed, and it remains to be seen how the music industry will strike a balance between AI technology and the rights of artists.