How AI is changing music forever

Musicians and technologists Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst discuss the AI music revolution and the critical importance of artist consent in building this new future
“What does it mean to be an artist when anybody can create as you?” Mat Dryhurst asked Freethink’s Melanie Bencosme in a recent interview in the Berlin studio he shares with his partner Holly Herndon.

“Do you say, ‘Nobody should be able to create as me, and I’m gonna shut this down’?” he continued. “Or do you lean into it and say, ‘Let’s acknowledge that this is now a thing, and see how far we can take it’?”

That provocative question is at the white hot center of the debate artists around the world are having about the rise of new generative AI tools which promise unprecedented opportunities to democratize creativity and yet raise serious concerns over issues of consent, ownership, and control.

Holly and Mat are artists, technologists, writers, and hosts of the Interdependence podcast which explores the intersection of art, technology, and policy. A hallmark of their work is both advocating for artists in this changing landscape while also exuding excitement about what these new technologies could produce. As Mat explains, “I don’t see any conflict between being very, very excited about development and machine learning, and also being very loyal to or concerned about artist welfare. I think that to suggest that there is an inherent conflict there is to kind of foreclose a bunch of possibilities that are actually still on the table.”

We sat down with them last month to talk about these debates and explore what answers they have found through their experiments — from Holly+, an AI voice model trained on Holly’s voice that doubles as an experiment in consent in AI to the website “Have I Been Trained?”, which lets artists search for their work in major AI art systems and give artists the option to opt-in or out of their work being used in AI training.

The resulting conversation is a fascinating (and refreshingly nuanced) look at the frontier of an emerging technology from two deeply thoughtful creative minds.

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