Foreword: Rahmon Agbaje highlights the dangers of the recent boom of generative AI in music and advertising and despite the hype why brands need to be extra cautious in 2024.

New Year. Same hype. With all the optimism that the New Year season brings. One trend which we’ve heard so much about towards the end of 2023 that will certainly continue into the New Year is AI.

AI has emerged as a game-changer in various industries, and its influence on the realms of music and advertising has been particularly profound. The integration of AI technologies has not only revolutionised the creation and consumption of music but has also redefined the potential landscape of advertising, opening up new possibilities and avenues for innovation but before that we should explore how AI is changing our world on a daily basis. 

Broadly speaking, AI can be described as computers or machines aiding human life and has had endless applications we’re familiar with from face ID recognition on our mobile phones to language translations and medical detection of diseases.

The practical applications of generative AI are genuinely exciting. What excites AI enthusiasts the most is the potential this technology has. We’re still in its infancy and it learns and trains itself every single day getting more intelligent across a range of industries at an exponential rate.

Whether it be the headlines about OpenAI and their eye watering valuation or CEO leadership challenges, the fight against plagiarism between students and universities with the use of ChatGPT or Generative AI transforming the design world. One thing for sure is that these overwhelming developments in the technology space are constantly in the headlines without anyone knowing the true extent of how far things will go… if we let them.

AI Crisis

Perhaps one of the biggest issues with AI technology is the lack of a united front internationally, especially on the legal front. Just a few months ago after the release of Chat GPT 4, thousands of technology leaders including Elon Musk signed an Open letter pleading for a pause on OpenSource Generative AI because of its existential risks. The letter highlights that development is moving too quickly and unfettered AI development may change life on earth as we know due to its unforeseen risks - this is truly the fear of the unknown.

Whereas reports from countries such as China show there is no slowdown in development creating what feels like an AI ‘space race’ with countries and also companies desperate to gain a competitive edge on each other to be the first to the market and boost their productivities with little regard for the unintended consequences.

Last year, Google had to fight off controversy after an ex-employee claimed that the AI was sentient. This was concerning as these headlines mirror what you’d expect to see in a sci-fi movie and now it feels very real with the possibility of machines really taking control and potentially outsmarting us. 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the UK government led an AI Summit last year and have expressed intentions to make Britain an AI hub. If AI truly is the future, then our children need to be taught how to leverage it and improve their employability. That’s something most parents would probably agree on.

However, some technology advocates argue that perhaps we are overreacting; there will always be a regulatory lag between legal and tech innovation. The cost savings, convenience and creative innovation are worth exploring - plus when it comes to AI integration in our world there is no way back. AI has already been integrated into our daily lives and when used appropriately could significantly improve the quality of human life.

Let’s be honest. The idea of an AI takeover makes for interesting headlines. What concerns me is the lack of control the everyday person has over a technology that can affect every part of our lives. We trust  the development of AI in the hands of a few elites technologists with little regulation or empathy for the every day person, 

Not even our democratically elected governments can take lead because the rate of innovation is so fast that even they are still figuring out their position. A lot of the debate previously was about decision makers underestimating the potential of AI, thankfully now it’s not being overlooked and there is a general consensus that we should act in some way, the next moral quandary is how do we actually act responsibly with this powerful tool that can be so beneficial.

AI Vs The Arts

It’s interesting to explore how AI can impact the most human centric things in our lives such as Culture and the Arts.

AI and Technology have faced particular scrutiny and resistance in the world of Art, often accused of ripping the soul out of the craft. Generative AI models can create beautiful images in seconds, prompted by a mere few words from a text.

Or perhaps in the music space where technologists are experimenting with music language models which can generate beautiful music from text prompts. Both Google and Facebook released their own music language models for ‘experimental’ purposes allowing anyone to create music from their laptops.  Their generative music is trained on hours of audio tracks. In theory, this could make anyone a musician, (so long as they own a laptop).

Throughout 2023, social media was flooded with AI generated remixes of popular tracks or completely new tracks from AI imitating our favourite artists to the point where fans could not distinguish whether the AI tracks were genuine or not.

Predictably, the record labels initial reaction to this was not welcoming. This potentially undermines their music catalogue and the artists they invest millions into. Furthermore, when it comes to commercialising AI tracks, it’s a legal minefield, especially if AI music models have been trained on popular music without copyright, consent or payments. That is perhaps why a lot of music AI’s have not been commercialised and have been released for experimental purposes.

However the tide is swaying, just this week Elvis Presley announced that combined with virtual reality they will be releasing an exclusive immersive AI experience of Elvis Presley starting this week in London and culminating in a holographic performance bringing the Rock legend back to life. 

This move rivals the critically acclaimed ABBA experience, a similar concept which has paved the way for a new standard in music entertainment. These examples show the power of technology to innovate and further connect us to some of our favourite artists, even beyond the grave.

I think music is especially complicated, particularly because of its emotional impact on our lives. Whilst AI can help make an incredible track, people really connect with the journeys and stories of their favourite artists. That said, technology is having growing influence on the industry, the ‘TikTok viral hit’ has led to songs becoming shorter, catchier and designed for a viral moment. Furthermore, technology including AI has been a part of the music consumption experience for a while whether that be personalised playlists on Spotify or music production tools used by musicians. I believe it’s not a novel concept, we are just entering a new phase and perhaps the most rapid and intense phase..

Art depicts life and is the ultimate form of expression and is why it’s so protected. It almost feels like a contradiction combining AI. However technology has also supported creators to amplify their message and not necessarily replace them. When used as a tool, AI could help save creators time and money, improve quality without being a cheat code yet still remain authentic to their message.

AI in Advertising

There is widespread debate as to whether advertising is losing it’s creative spark. With budgets being cut, brands and agency may be tempted to play it safe and not take as many risks as they did in the past. Younger consumers especially are losing their connection with brands as they try and place their products during a cost of living crisis and at a time of great sensitivity in the world due to disastrous current affairs.

Perhaps AI could be the solution. Not only can AI save advertisers a lot of money and time, (in an industry full of tight deadlines), it could potentially inspire innovation and enhance the pool of creative ideas.

Last year, big partnerships in the AI space were announced with industry giant WPP and AI chip leader Nvidia announcing that they are developing an AI driven content engine which will harness NVIDIA Omniverse™ and AI ‘to enable creative teams to produce high-quality commercial content faster, more efficiently and at scale while staying fully aligned with a client’s brand.’ 

The potential of this could be really exciting, giving creatives the tools they need to push the boundaries and make truly iconic ads against whilst at the speed of light and at a fraction of the cost.

WPP CEO Mark Read stated ‘the savings from Generative AI could be ‘10 or 20 times.’ Furthermore, it could help to make more targeted and personalised ads.

WPP clients Nestlé and Mondelez, makers of Oreo and Cadbury, used OpenAI’s DALL-E 2 to make ads. One ad for Cadbury ran in India with an AI-generated video of the Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan inviting pedestrians to shop at stores.

Unilever created its own generative AI advertising tools and used them to write spiels for one of its shampoo products.

Again, there are a host of legal challenges that need to be addressed before this becomes the default format. People should be aware if an ad is AI generated, trust is so important and this needs to be part of advertising policy. AI must be used responsibly by these large corporations and hopefully in aid of staff in their creative teams rather than replacing them to cut costs.

Ultimately, AI is here to stay and there is no going back. However, I do believe there is still time and we have a choice on how we will allow it to impact the creative industries; what it requires though is a united front. Perhaps art is the domain that will bring us together to protect our humanity and expression.