Google and Universal Music partner up to develop AI music tool

The AI tool allows people to create songs using the voices of various artists. What will this do to the music industry?
Sejal Sharma
Representational image
Representational image


Months after an outburst over AI-engineered songs that used the voice of artists, it seems like the world’s largest record label – Universal Music Group (UMG) – is getting on board to ride the AI wave before it washes out the company.

In collaboration with Google, UMG will soon develop a tool allowing fans to create AI-generated music using musicians' voices, reported Financial Times. The deal involves paying copyright holders their share in using their melody and allows the artists a choice to opt in.

The AI tool allegedly developed by Google is in the early stages of development, and it’s unclear when it will be released.

According to the Financial Times report, a similar deal is being discussed between Google and Warner Music Group (WMG). Robert Kyncl, the CEO of WMG, said during the company’s earnings call that “with the right framework in place,” AI will “enable fans to pay their heroes the ultimate compliment through a new level of user-driven content.”

Evolution of deepfake tech

UMG’s pivot towards AI-generated songs comes as a surprise because four months ago, the company had taken a strong stance against similar AI tools people use to generate fake songs and upload them to online music streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Youtube. Perhaps it sees the AI tool as a means to control the narrative and protect its artists from the inevitable change being brought on by AI.

Around the same time, an AI-generated song called ‘Heart On My Sleeve’ was making the rounds on the internet and claimed to be sung by Drake and The Weeknd, both artists represented by UMG. The record label urged streaming platforms to take down the song, but by then, it had already garnered 600,000 listens.

Streaming services like Spotify have had to pull down thousands of AI-generated songs from its platform after AI companies made music-generating tools publicly available to their users.

Music industry divided

Many artists and music industry bigwigs have come out in support of AI songs, like DJ David Guetta, who said, "The future of music is in AI" after he used AI music software to add Eminem’s vocals to a song during a concert. Canadian musician Grimes has also supported the AI music movement and is allowing her voice to be used in AI-generated songs.

“I’ll split 50 percent royalties on any successful AI-generated song that uses my voice,” said Grimes on X. “Feel free to use my voice without penalty,” she said, claiming she has no label and “no legal bindings.”

Suggesting that AI might not be such a bad thing, Pet Shop Boys’ vocalist Neil Tennant said that the technology could come in handy for an artist as they write their songs.

But not everybody in the industry shares the same sentiment.

In an interview with the BBC, Sting said musicians face "a battle" to defend their work against the rise of songs written by AI.