Sting Warns of an Impending Battle to Preserve Human Music in the Face of AI-Generated Songs

Renowned musician Sting has raised concerns about the increasing prevalence of songs created by artificial intelligence (AI), stating that musicians must prepare for a battle to defend their creative work. In an interview with the BBC, Sting emphasized that the fundamental elements of music belong to human beings and stressed the need to protect our “human capital” against AI.

The discussion arises as several songs have emerged that employ AI to replicate the vocals of famous artists. In February, DJ David Guetta incorporated Eminem’s “voice” using AI technology in one of his tracks, while a fabricated duet between Drake and The Weeknd went viral in April. The latter was later removed from streaming platforms due to a copyright complaint from Universal Music Group (UMG), which coincidentally also represents Sting’s music.

Comparing AI-generated music to computer-generated images in movies, Sting expressed his lack of enthusiasm, admitting that he quickly becomes bored when observing CGI. He anticipated feeling similarly unimpressed by AI’s role in music, particularly when it comes to evoking emotions and expressing human experiences, in contrast to its potential success in electronic dance music.

The music industry has reacted swiftly by forming the “Human Artistry Campaign” to combat AI’s encroachment on artistic creation. The campaign aims to address concerns that AI companies are violating copyright laws by training their software on commercially released music. However, the issue of copyright protection for AI-generated music remains a topic of debate. While English copyright law theoretically allows for copyright protection of AI-generated works, the US Copyright Office recently ruled that AI art, including music, cannot be copyrighted due to its lack of “human authorship.”

Despite the ongoing debate, not everyone opposes the application of AI in music. Neil Tennant, the frontman of the Pet Shop Boys, believes that AI could help musicians overcome writer’s block. Tennant suggested that AI could fill in the gaps in partially written songs, providing a useful tool for artists. Sting concurred with Tennant’s viewpoint but emphasized the importance of musicians retaining control over the AI tools, cautioning against allowing machines to take over the creative process entirely.

Sting’s remarks were made in anticipation of receiving the highest honor from the Ivor Novello songwriting awards, becoming an Ivor Academy Fellow. Reflecting on his legendary career, Sting expressed gratitude for the recognition and shared anecdotes from his time with The Police and as a solo artist. He acknowledged the risk he took by embarking on a solo career and reflected on the enduring thrill of hearing his first hit, “Roxanne,” on the radio.

Addressing his decision to sell his entire back catalog to UMG, Sting emphasized that while he entrusted his record label with its management, he still considers the songs as his own. Citing examples of posthumous estate battles faced by other artists, Sting rationalized the decision as a means to secure his musical legacy and avoid potential complications in the future.

In conclusion, Sting’s comments shed light on the growing battle between musicians and AI-generated music, emphasizing the importance of defending human creativity and emotions in songwriting. As AI continues to permeate various industries, the music world grapples with the question of how to navigate this new landscape while preserving the essence of human expression in music.