Billie Eilish, Stevie Wonder and more sign letter demanding protection against AI

Virgin Radio

3 Apr 2024, 09:58

Billie Eilish, AI image, Stevie Wonder

Credit: Rex/ Getty

More than 200 big-name musicians have signed an open letter calling for more protections against the use of artificial intelligence in the industry. 

New techniques to mimic artists’ voices and sounds have started becoming more frequently used, and the likes of Billie Eilish, REM and Stevie Wonder have asked tech firms to not use AI tools to replace human songwriters and singers. 

The estates of Frank Sinatra and Bob Marley also signed the Artist Rights Alliance letter, which demands that tech companies no longer develop programmes that could undermine the work of real people. It comes as YouTube revealed they were testing AI music-making tools. 

The letter reads: “This assault on human creativity must be stopped. We must protect against the predatory use of AI to steal professional artists’ voices and likenesses, violate creators’ rights, and destroy the music ecosystem.”

It’s important to note that the letter doesn’t call for a full ban on AI tech in the music industry, as it can often be beneficial for producers, as has been the case for a number of years.

John Lennon’s voice was adapted using AI for The Beatles’ final song as a four in 2023, while the likes of Drake and The Weeknd voiced their disapproval of a fan-generated song using AI cloning tools.

There are a number of artists who have also made their position on AI very clear. Hozier recently revealed that he’d be willing to strike over the use of artificial intelligence.

Speaking to Victoria Derbyshire on BBC Newsnight about whether he would strike against AI during the Hollywood strikes, the Irish singer said: “Joining in solidarity if there was... action on that? Absolutely.

"Whether [AI is] art or not, I think, is nearly a philosophical debate. It can’t create something based on a human experience. So I don’t know if it meets the definition of art.”

On the flip side of the argument, Peter Gabriel gave a stark warning to the music industry about the use of AI programmes, including ChatGPT. 

Speaking to Uncut Magazine, Peter shared his thoughts about AI, and why we should be working alongside the new programming as opposed to avoiding it. 

He explained: “I can’t think of anyone whose job couldn’t be done better by Al in 10 years time, maybe five. For instance, when I drive down to the studio, my Tesla is doing a lot of the driving for me – but I’m still keeping my hands on the wheel.

“The same thing is going to happen more in any process, including creativity. With some of the AI, half the artists want to play with it and half want to shut it down.”

Peter also suggested artists should stop “pretending it doesn’t exist” and instead embrace what AI could help musicians do in the decades to come.