Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys has offered up an optimistic perspective on how AI could be utilized by musicians and producers in an interview with British publication Radio Times.
Tennant suggests that AI might become a useful tool for musicians, helping them to overcome writer's block or finish songs while in periods of creative stasis. He recalls being stunned by the technology after the group's manager's daughter demonstrated the results that an AI chatbot produced when asked to write a song in the style of Pet Shop Boys.
"There’s a song that we wrote a chorus for in 2003 and we never finished because I couldn’t think of anything for the verses," Tennant said. "But now with AI you could give it the bits you’ve written, press the button and have it fill in the blanks. You might then rewrite it, but it could nonetheless be a tool."
Tennant's views stand in stark contrast to many who believe that songwriting isn't a job suited to AI. Nick Cave recently described ChatGPT's attempts to write a song in his own style as "bullshit" and "a grotesque mockery of what it means to be human". "What makes a great song great is not its close resemblance to a recognizable work," he continued, "it is an act of self-murder that destroys all one has strived to produce in the past."
Regardless of how either of these musicians feel about AI technology, it's already being used by musicians and producers in a variety of ways to augment the creative process. AI plugins have been developing rapidly in recent years, while AI-powered, text-to-audio sound generation tools are already being utilized by producers to generate samples to use in their music.
Tennant's comments arrive in the midst of growing, industry-wide concern over the implications of rapidly advancing generative AI technology. Last month, a track featuring AI-generated vocals in the style of Drake and The Weeknd was taken down from streaming services by Universal Media Group after going viral.
UMG later sent open letters to streaming platforms, urging them to stop "ingesting content that violates the rights of artists". "UMG’s success has been, in part, due to embracing new technology and putting it to work for our artists,” the company said in a statement. "However, the training of generative AI using our artists’ music … begs the question as to which side of history all stakeholders in the music ecosystem want to be on."
Revisit our tutorial on how to recreate the synth sound from Pet Shop Boys' West End Girls.