It was a simple plan: find out the state of Artificial Intelligence in music production by getting the technology to create 10 pieces of music as fast as possible. We'd play you the results, we'd all have a bit of a laugh at the various attempts, and then go back to making our own music in a more human and enjoyable – and much more labour-intensive – way.
That was the plan, but it didn't work out.
What we found was that AI can make great music and it can make rubbish music… and pretty much everything in between. The big problem, though, is not the quality of the music you create, it's the ownership of said tunes. No matter how happy you are with your AI music creations, it doesn't belong to you unless you pay for it. That's essentially because it's not your creation – it is created by the AI – so in order to use it publicly you have to pay. And that might be fair enough if you think about it.
But let's just rewind for a moment. AI is used in many aspects of our lives and the technology is making rapid – actually terrifying – inroads into music production. This should save us all time, right? What AI is really good for? So to test this, we decided to get AI to create 10 pieces of music in as fast a time as is (non) humanly possible. In the event, that turned out to be in a little over an hour, about 500 times faster than it would take us to complete 10 tracks in the 'real world'! Some of the results are shocking. Some are shockingly bad.
We made our task as easy as possible by Googling some top ranking AI sites and using the five that seemed to crop up more than others. If that doesn't sound scientific, it's not supposed to. This is about us being as lazy as possible, to get some music created as fast as possible. We sit back, the algorithms do the work.
Pretty much every website we chose allowed us to create music straight away by putting in some very simple filters. We could choose mood, style, genre, instruments and more. Most site were crunching tracks out within seconds after we first visited them, churning out a track or three after 10-15 seconds of processing.
Most of the five websites then asked us to spend some dollars to download our/their efforts, by subscribing to a monthly plan. And this is where the whole 'using AI for music production' starts unravelling. Not only do you (mostly) have to pay to download your musical efforts, you also have to pay to be able to use it in most public places. You're paying the AI engine for it to use its work where you want it to. While you do own some level of copyright over the music in some instances, it ends up getting so murky, that you end up thinking that you might as well create your own simple tunes and use those instead.
Let's show you how it works with the five sites we chose.
Loudly is one of the simplest sites to generate music with. You have to create an account (or use your Google/Facebook account) and then simply choose your genre from a drop-down menu. These include Ambient/Cinematic, Drum 'n' Bass, EDM, Epic Score, Hip Hop, Synthwave and more.
We choose Drum 'n' Bass, then select High Energy (from Lo, Original and High), a random set of instruments, and a minute for the song duration. If you choose a genre like drum 'n' bass from the list, do make sure you have a bass and a drum highlighted in your chosen instrument list or you might end up with 'no drum 'n' bass'!
You then press 'Generate' and Loudly says 'Sure, hang tight while we tune our instruments.' Our first few attempts don't work – the website indicates it is too busy saying 'based on the number of requests, this song cannot be created at the moment' – but eventually Loudly generates three tracks within 10-15 seconds.
The results are very simple, the first is a high-tempo drum 'n' bass track with around four music parts. There's also a single 'dance' lyric and what feels like a loop of the same beat, all within an arrangement with a standard drop.
The second track is better, more in your face and the bass fits well. The arrangement is also very light – just five parts.
These are not exactly mind-blowing results, though – you could get similar tunes just using track builder samples thrown into a DAW (and even faster in Ableton Live). The results are certainly both 'drum n bass tracks' and would be ok if they were just used as Youtube soundtracks, but we wouldn't exactly have been proud of these tracks if we'd created them ourselves.
Loudly wouldn't let us download the tracks unless we created a $7.99/month account although, to be fair, the website is not alone in this regard. It does allow the tracks' use on social media using the free account (although being unable to download them, this would be hard!), but really you are looking at getting the Personal $7.99/month account to be able to do anything with the very simple music you create here.
Loudly offers a further Pro $14.99 monthly subscription that offers unlimited downloads and 'Extended license coverage' although this doesn't extend to radio, TV or cinema – for that you need to create a 'Custom' account and contact Loudly.
More info at Loudly.
On the face of it, Soundful delivers one of the most pleasing experiences in that it looks exciting and a creative place for you to get bots to create your music for you!
There are nice pictures, not too many distractions, like filters to home in your music, and you are moments away from creating music.
You start by telling the AI algorithms who you are and what kind of music you are into and it then makes some friendly suggestions. Ours pushes us in the direction of EDM and deep house so we go with it, and within seconds it starts processing and coming up with a preview of our deep EDM track.
We are pleasantly surprised with the results here. Not only does the track do its job in an as inoffensive a way as possible, it also has a couple of contemporary production tricks like the neat ducking and lush reverbs.
So impressed with this slice of laid back house are we, that we assume the EDM category might be just variations of the same grooves, so we decide to test it again, using similar filters to see if we would get a similar sounding track.
Again our next EDM track is a good effort: sufficiently different to the first, and with lots of nice effects, punchy kicks and bass synths.
Unlike many sites here, Soundful lets you download 10 of your creations a month under the free subscription. The paid for subs are $30/year and $60/year for more (up to 300) downloads. However you do have to pay at least the $30/year fee sub to be able to use the music on your socials, and $60 for a full license for it to be used anywhere.
We think Soundful is one of the better AI sites with the most musical of results – easily good enough to soundtrack videos across Youtube and match commercial soundtracks used in a lot of media.
If we were EDM producers knocking out average-sounding soundtracks for corporate videos, we'd be mopping our brows right about now. However, you will end up paying if you want to use the music anywhere other than in your own home.
There's more info at Soundful.
With Boomy you are straight into the artificial music making. We already seem to have an account created which is odd – maybe the site is linked to Loudly which we'd visited just before coming here.
When it comes to the filters, you don't get that great a choice of genres – Electronic Dance, Rap Beats, Lo-Fi, Global Groove, Relaxing Meditation and Custom. We choose Rap Beats to start with, but then you also get to choose a sub genre – Hip Hop, Trap, House and more.
Select one of these and your song is generated. Again it takes around 10-15 seconds to generate the songs and the result is a hip hop/trap variant.
We're not really sure what to make of the finished result here. The beats are just about 'hip hop'. The rest is rather muddled. In truth it's not great, so we think we'd better give Boomy another chance. This time, though, we're going as far away from hip hop as possible to give Boomy a chance with a very different genre. We go for EDM and a warehouse vibe and the result is as disappointing as the first track.
We even give Boomy a third go and try it for a Lo-Fi/ambient track. We wish we hadn't.
There's further disappointment when we realise we can't download the tracks without going from our free sub to the $9.99/month Creator or $29.99 Pro accounts. Also, you can't use the music anywhere unless you go for either of these accounts. In fact you have to pay the full $29.99 to use the music in any commercial way (the $9.99/month only lets you use the music for 'non-commercial use in social media and livestreaming').
Get more info from the Boomy website.
Soundraw is welcoming from the off. You are straight into music creation from the homepage and onto a second page of filters by mood description and image. It's all rather lovely.
Then you are straight into the song creation process, but you can carry on filtering under six different main filters, including Genre, Instruments and Theme. Whenever you click on a new filter, the AI engine recalibrates the end resulting tune within seconds. It's a very slick process.
Because there are so many filters you can really smash different styles of music together that you wouldn't ordinarily pair up. Obviously sometimes this works better than others.
For our first attempt though, we're going for something a little more obvious, some euphoric drum 'n' bass and the mood is certainly as 'up' as the beats.
We end up with what you might call a 'decent' result, with a fairly hooky and uptempo lead, breakdowns in the right places and interest maintained throughout.
Next up we decide to maintain the euphoric mood, but slow things down a bit and throw in an acoustic curveball, simply because we can. We end up with one of those chanting, vocal led and upbeat tracks that could sit well on any TV commercial or interlude. It's a good result and we congratulate ourselves on the effort, even though there was none put in, nor did we have very much to do with it at all, really.
We like Soundraw a lot, mostly because of its genre and mood mashing capabilities. However, again you have to pay a $16.99/month subscription to download the songs, but this fee also seems to grant you a license to use the songs anywhere, so this is one of the best cover-all scenarios options we have found. Soundraw could be a great site if you need a lot of different music.
Get more info from Soundraw.io.
Finally, and just as an hour is ticking past, we head over to Aiva which comes highly recommended. Not only does this site differ from others here in terms of its music filters – you can pick odd styles including a 'sea shanty' – but there are many edits you can make to your tune after it has been created, which we'll come to shortly.
First up you can select by influences or preset styles (see above) and then you can choose more specific filters like the song's duration and mood.
We opt for a sad trap tune – we're not quite sure why. It's certainly a bit glum and a bit trappy but doesn't really get going – not that we gave it much time to – nor does it sounds particularly well mixed.
However, and here's the genius part of Aiva, you can open the song almost like a DAW project in your browser, and edit notes, add tracks and mix the various parts should you wish to. There's a lot to do here, in fact, and you'll be right at home doing it if you are a regular DAW user.
Onto our 10th and final track, and we increase the length but go in a more classical direction – a genre we've not tried so far, largely as it's not been an available option. We go for a dramatic and symphonic feel.
Again the mix could be clearer and it's a tad repetitive, but Aiva does have a more varied set of filters than most of the sites we have tried. And with that extra post creation editing available, we feel there's a lot we can do to actually make these algorithmic pieces more 'us', which would ultimately help us feel a lot better about them (and possibly using them down the line).
Like the other sites, there's a free sub (with which you can download three tracks a month) and two paid for options: $15 and $30/month which gets you increased downloads and audio quality.
Also like the others, you only get to use the music publicly when you pay for either service, and only with the top $30/month sub do you actually own the copyright.
Get more infor from AIVA.
So what do we conclude from all of this?
Some AI music generating site are way better than others and we're particularly impressed with the results from Soundful and the process on Aiva, with its DAW-like editing options.
Different genres score very differently too. We're not sure that classical musicians have a lot to worry about yet, with only a couple of sites even offering it as a genre, let alone producing anything convincing within it.
The hip hop tracks we tried to produce were pretty underwhelming too. Perhaps understandably, given the reasonably formulaic nature of the genre, EDM and dance music were genres that AI can handle with some success, with Soundful adding some very neat production tricks on top if its AI produced tracks.
These are by no means the only AI sites out there, and we'll repeat this feature as we come across more. But this exercise does lead us to the conclusion that, even though these are early days in the history of Artificial Intelligence in music production, it is already both easy and fast to do, and the results are only going to get more complex, more accurate and more interesting.
However, as we said in the intro, the subject of copyright and use of the music gets too complicated, too quickly. You have to read the (actually not so) small print to work out where you can use 'your' (ok 'their') creations and in most cases you will have to pay to use it.
At the moment, then, AI generated music can be varied and is useful if you are a big business in need of lots of music. If you are a music producer making music for fun or even semi/professionally we think it's better – and in some cases possibly even quicker – to make your own music. There will be no questions of copyright – you own it – so you can use it anywhere, plus you will feel more creatively satisfied. Best of all, if you have your studio setup already, it won't cost you a cent.