Will All Musicians Become Robots?

Embracing the tech and staying human: 5 things we learned working on intelligent algorithms

"Is the world ready for the perceptional battle that AI in music poses?"

This question was posed at Boston’s A3E Conference last month by a team member at Landr. Their company had received death threats from people in the mastering industry after having released a DIY drag-and-drop instant online mastering service powered by AI algorithms.

Fast rewind to late 2011 when we launched our first product, Liquid Notes, a songwriting assistant driven by intelligent music algorithms.

We had spent more than three years developing algorithms to enable software to read and interpret a composition (song) like an expert does. Coming from a music and technology background, our team was hugely excited having accomplished this.

“Looks interesting and I’m intrigued. Grabbing the demo now ….”

That meant a lot of leg work for us in starting discussions on multiple forums, and collecting users’ feedback. It takes time to cut through the noise, but creates some great threads.

“This is like suggesting that the World Series could be won with a pitching machine.”

At times we felt like being in the middle of the fight between machines and humans. We hadn't expected this, our aim was to make a cool product that shows what the technology is capable of doing.

Understanding the perceptional battle in music

The first digital wave brought about digital music technology like synths and DAW’s. And with that, everything changed. Sound synthesis and sampling made entirely new forms of expressiveness possible. Sequencers in combination with large databases of looping clips laid the foundation for electronic dance music which led to a multifaceted artistic and cultural revolution.

1. Will AI render human music makers useless?

Definitely not. The magic and final decision over creative output will always remain with the (human) artist. A computer is not a human with feelings and emotions. What makes us get to our knees in awe will keep machines clinically indifferent. Simple as that.

2. Is AI in music tech becoming a reality?

It already is. There is no stopping it. But then that is the course of a natural evolutionary process which can only push forward.

3. What impact will AI technology have on the music industry?

A huge one. This is a game changer! Read our statement on main applications above.

4. Why does this topic cause such strong emotional reactions?

It is our egos we cling on to, having trotted down the same paths for decades. Many believe their laboriously acquired expertise is threatened by robot technology and a new ruthless generation. The truth is if we embrace AI’s as our helping friends and maybe even learn how to think a little more technical, who can fathom how ingeniously more colorful the world of music will become in the hands of talented musicians of all generations.

5. Will the industry embrace this change?

Yes, because it enables a completely new generation of products and startups like us push for innovation. The agreeable side effect: It will make people happy, musicians, consumers, and businessmen alike, full circle.

Join our journey on Twitter or Facebook, or visit our website to find out more about us.

And feel free to share this article or to comment on it. It means a lot to us.

Image credit: Daft Punk (top), Re-Compose (middle)