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ILMC 36: Exploring AI’s potential for live music

The transformative potential of artificial intelligence’s (AI) on the live music and entertainment sector was analysed in detail at the International Live Music Conference (ILMC).

Hosted by Cliff Fluet, founder and MD of Eleven, yesterday’s Artificial Intelligence: Moving at Light Speed session featured guests Sammy Andrews of Deviate Digital, Pulsar’s Fran D’Orazio, Observatory’s Ben Sheppee, AXS’ chief strategy officer Marc Ruxin, and aurismatic’s Richard Kurka, who joined the panel via satellite.

Fluet reckoned that AI’s impact makes it “comparable to steam or electricity” in a bygone era.

“Pretty much every innovation from a technological or business perspective is, in some way shape or form, going to be AI-powered going forward,” said Fluet. “Unlike a lot of innovations, 85% of the planet has a device that’s powered and enabled by AI. It’s probably likely to be one of the last ever human inventions.”

In terms of how AI can be incorporated into live performance, the opportunities are bountiful despite the industry’s heavy reliance on the human aspect. However, despite its continued improvement at a rapid rate, Andrews believes such advanced technology still needs a “human eye”.

“Though every platform that we use to advertise live music already has AI embedded into it, there’s sometimes a ‘hit or miss’ element to it”

“Though every platform that we use to advertise live music already has AI embedded into it, there’s sometimes a ‘hit or miss’ element to it,” she explained. “We’ve seen a couple of platforms that will remain nameless, checking random music, altering the copy your artist took weeks to approve, and so forth. But we’re halfway there when it comes to correctly identifying audiences and being able to show them the right sort of content. It’s only going to get better.”

The panel soon segued from marketing to ticketing, and AI’s potential to optimise pricing strategies for live events to guarantee maximum profitability and accessibility.

“Dynamic pricing has been around for some time,” said Ruxin. “The reason it hasn’t been broadly adopted in the live performance sector in the way that it has been accepted by consumers is because of two factors: you have artists who want actual fans to be paying appropriate prices for tickets to their shows, and then you have a business mechanism that involves the need to optimise prices and seats.”

Ruxin further discussed the potential of AI to detect counterfeit tickets. “It’s only a matter of when and not if,” he said, with emphasis on how facial recognition technology is a template for AI to discern which tickets are real or otherwise.

Having talked about using aurismatic as “essentially a Shazam alternative for live music using AI”, Kurka added that one of his company’s main goals is to establish something that he firmly believes is “missing in the live music sector”.

“It could work well in smaller gigs that operate on smaller budgets”

On the topic of “predictive analytics”, D’Orazio believed that AI provides those without technological and data expertise the chance to “emulate someone like [Mad Men character] Don Draper in the 1950s”.

“Trend forecasting can now go back in the hands of the people that don’t have technical or scientific backgrounds,” D’Orazio said, noticing an irony in advanced AI technology encouraging a throwback to an “older method of creative thinking and advertising”.

When asked on whether there is a general misconception that AI is a cheaper method of creating something, Sheppee answered in the affirmative.

“There are costs when creating visual elements with AI,” he said. However, he admitted that AI can also be used to circumvent the possibility of copyright infringement. “Last year, we had consulted a band who wanted to use an image they either didn’t have rights to, or the rights were really expensive. We managed to generate a piece of content that was broadly similar, which rendered it a cost-saving exercise.”

He added that while AI isn’t feasible to use in large-scale arenas like Las Vegas Sphere, “It could work well in smaller gigs that operate on smaller budgets.”

 


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IQ 125 out now: Peter Schwenkow, MVT, Gulf States

IQ 125, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online now.

The February/March edition sees DEAG founder Peter Schwenkow look back over 50 remarkable years as a live entertainment pioneer, while Derek Robertson talks to grassroots venue campaigners around the world as Music Venue Trust marks its tenth anniversary.

In addition, Lisa Henderson talks to female crew members and women backstage about the work they’re doing to pave the way for future generations, and Adam Woods shines a light on the burgeoning live entertainment markets in the Gulf States.

Elsewhere, we profile ten new festivals that are making their debut in 2024, and the full agenda for ILMC 36 is revealed.

For this edition’s comments and columns, IQ passes the mic to Cliff Fluet who previews his ILMC panel Artificial Intelligence: Moving at Light Speed, while ticketing guru Tim Chambers opines that the marriage between private equity and live entertainment has become too big to fail.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ from just £8 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

 


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To bot or not to bot: Grappling with the rise of ChatGPT

The controversy over the use of artificial intelligence within music intensified this week when a song that simulated the voices of Drake and The Weeknd was removed from streaming services due to a copyright claim. Here, in this feature from our latest issue, IQ delves deeper into the rise of AI and its implications for the live music business…


For anyone unfamiliar with OpenAI’s ChatGPT tool, the artificial intelligence chatbot has been making the headlines for some time now, most recently when one of the company’s founders, Elon Musk, became one of 1,000 signatories of an open letter that calls on labs around the world to immediately cease “for at least six months, the training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4.”

Underlining their concerns, the scientists, academics, and tech pioneers who added their names to that of Musk, stated that the six-month pause on development, “should be public and verifiable and include all key actors. If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium.”

While many observers have criticised the letter, which to add to consternation was instigated by the alarmingly named Future of Life Institute, the call has been taken seriously by many others. The Italian government has moved to temporarily ban ChatGPT, blocking its citizens from access to the service by citing OpenAI’s failure to verify the age of its users while arguing that the mass processing of personal data to train the chatbot is also questionable under European law.

“ChatGPT is [Google] on steroids”

Other EU nations are apparently also considering blocking ChatGPT, while China has also banned the tool, labelling it an instrument of Western propaganda. However, Chinese tech giants such as Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent are known to be developing their own AI chatbot platforms.

However, with chatbots now a common and accepted (if sometimes frustrating) part of customer relations, the use of AI is undoubtedly here to stay, with ChatGPT and other systems such as ChatSonic, Playground, Bard, and numerous others soaking up billions of dollars in research, set to revolutionise the way we all conduct business and other aspects of our lives.

“Remember when Google first appeared, and people thought it was weird that you would want to ask your search engine questions to get results? Well, ChatGPT is that on steroids,” observes musicologist and founder of The Online Recording Studio, Joe Wadsworth.

“By using ChatGPT, I can access the sum total of human knowledge in a way that’s perfectly curated to the question or task at hand”

Also using Google as a reference point is author David Boyle, who has written three books on the subject of AI, including PROMPT FOR MUSICIANS: A practical guide to brand growth using ChatGPT, co-written with Richard Bowman, to provide a guide for people working in music to sharpen their ChatGPT skills.

“If you ask Google a question at the moment, you’ll find a very small subset of answers that we can use to help make decisions,” observes Boyle. “AI massively amplifies that. If we devoted our whole life to reading about the live music industry, we’d still only read a tiny, tiny percentage of what was online. But ChatGPT can access everything that is available online, summarise that, and deliver a comprehensive document within minutes, in whatever style you request.

In other words, it can access the sum total of human knowledge in a way that’s perfectly curated to the question or task at hand. “For instance, if I’m interested in researching the future of concerts, without AI, it would take me days to find all the right stuff, and I would not be able to interpret it – and I wouldn’t be able to understand the information in foreign languages that I don’t read. But by using ChatGPT, I can access the sum total of human knowledge in a way that’s perfectly curated to the question or task at hand. It’s awesome!”

“AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity”

One of Boyle’s golden lessons is that experts should always judge, refine and enhance ChatGPT’s output. So, how did it do this time? “Not great,” says Boyle. “With some rewording, 1, 4 and 5 are ok, but 2 and 3 aren’t likely to be valuable avenues to explore. For marketing, concentrate on understanding an artist or genre’s target audience, devising content and messaging strategies, and rapidly producing marketing materials. Legal tasks, such as converting brief notes into contracts and vice versa should be added.

“Enhancing communication is another big area of opportunity, quickly transforming rough emails into concise, clear, and well-structured messages. However, in all use cases, it’s essential to have experienced professionals evaluate, refine, and improve ChatGPT’s output, as it was with this list [for IQ] .”

However, in their ‘Pause Giant AI Experiments’ letter, Musk et al protest, “AI systems with human-competitive intelligence can pose profound risks to society and humanity, as shown by extensive research and acknowledged by top AI labs.” The letter adds, “Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop nonhuman minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart, obsolete, and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilisation? Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders.”

“With something that has the potential to be as powerful as this, taking a minute to look at the implications from a sort of societal level, is no bad thing”

Wadsworth tells IQ, “I think what [Musk and others] are saying is absolutely right. Just taking a minute to say, ‘Hang on, let’s do the smart thing here and just really look at this,’ seems a really measured way of doing it. Culturally, the capitalistic approach is to go fast and develop and grow and grow. And we’ve seen these big crashes where that gung-ho attitude often ends in disaster.

“With something that has the potential to be as powerful as this, taking a minute to look at the implications from a sort of societal level, is no bad thing.” Boyle has a slightly different take. “It’s a bit like climate change: we’re all worried about it, but if I have to be in America tomorrow, I’m getting on a plane, even though I know it is destroying the climate and it might end mankind,” he states.

“The same is true with AI. It absolutely might end mankind. Terminator is my favourite movie, and one possible end state of where this is going is 100% the end of the world. But I’m using AI every single day. And I’m getting on a plane next week. However, for both AI and air travel, we should work to avoid the long-term downsides at the same time as using the tech in the short term.”

“Personally, ChatGPT makes me quicker and better at doing the things I was already doing”

According to those already using the technology, rather than something to be feared over beliefs that AI capabilities will see humans being replaced on payrolls, ChatGPT should be embraced as a way to speed up certain tasks. In other words, running creative writing assignments through the ChatGPT software can save valuable time, albeit the human factor may still be required to check any AI-generated script for factual errors. Boyle cites his own personal experience of being an early adopter of ChatGPT to highlight the positives.

“Personally, ChatGPT makes me quicker and better at doing the things I was already doing. And it feeds me ideas I would never have thought of,” he explains. “I’m not that good at writing, but now, using AI, I send reports that have coherent sentences, that are thoughtful, and use nice analogies. I have more fun doing it, and I work less hours work per week, so I have more time with my friends and family. But I actually do more work because I can take on more projects and write more articles than I otherwise would have done – it allows me to take on projects that I never would have accepted before because it was too much work for me or slightly out of my expertise. But I know I can do that now because of this AI tool at my disposal.”

Wadsworth, who is currently raising capital to take his OnlineRecordingStudio.com artist services venture to the next level, notes that AI tools for music have evolved from some of the nefarious voice replication programmes that hit the headlines during the US political campaigns of 2015/16, where audio manipulation could make it appear that candidates were saying words that they had never actually uttered.

“If you’re writing to sell your songs, for example, you might want to know what it sounds like to have a certain artist singing them”

“In the years since, people have used the technology on social media to create comedy things – here’s Ozzy Osbourne singing Call Me Maybe,” he says. “But now, I can use ChatGPT to request, ‘write me a song about going to the shops, in the style of Kanye West,’ and it will just do it. It won’t be perfect, but it’s 75% of the way there, and you can then go through and edit stuff as needed.”

Wadsworth adds, “There are huge positives that are going to come out of this. If you’re writing to sell your songs, for example, you might want to know what it sounds like to have a certain artist singing them. Traditionally, you wouldn’t have been able to do that. Now I can say, I’ve written this song for a Taylor Swift-type artist and hear how it sounds with her voice. There’s also monetisation opportunities for artists to license their voice – not necessarily for release but for personal use.”

In terms of the applications for people working in the live side of the business, both experts promote ChatGPT’s benefits when it comes to communication-based tasks. “If you’re pitching something to somebody, [ChatGPT] is really good,” says Boyle. “At worst, take a pitch you’ve already written, submit it to ChatGPT and ask, ‘How can I improve this?’ It might suggest tidying up the wording, improving punctuation: ‘In paragraph three, you can make a more compelling case for why it benefits the recipient.’ Or better still, get it to rewrite the pitch.”

“t just seems a bit scary because we’ve had some 100 years of sci-fi talking about how the robots are going to take over”

Wadsworth says, “Anything that’s a repetitive task or doesn’t require a huge amount of creative skill – and when I say ‘creative,’ I mean actually coming up with new things as opposed to just regurgitating things – then that’s something that can be done by an AI. I don’t think there’s any issue with that – things like generating chord patterns can be automated if you know how to use it properly. I don’t see that as being any different from any other tool, honestly. It just seems a bit scary because we’ve had some 100 years of sci-fi talking about how the robots are going to take over.”

But the duo also flag up limitations. “It’s not only about how you ask ChatGPT the question; it’s also about whether it’s the right question or not because there’s some questions that it can’t answer,” says Boyle. “It’s not very good at recalling specific facts – so a person’s biography or a news story or a stat. So in general, that’s not a good use case. Another thing it’s not very good at is analysing big, structured data tables, so using it to help with tour routing might not be great.”

Wadsworth agrees. However, he notes that as AI systems are trained and develop, those kinds of tasks might quickly become part of its skillset. “There are definitely strong use cases within marketing,” continues Wadsworth. “Want a new bio for your band… just tell ChatGPT a few bits of information and ask it to write, say, 600 words, and it will produce something really good. If you’re an indie band, it might save you the cost of hiring a publicist or a copywriter.

“[ChatGPT] is like an electric bike for the mind, which lets you tackle bigger problems and to go faster”

“It can also come up with ideas for 20 TikToks that will engage your act’s audience, whereas the band members might only think of 12.” And Wadsworth sees AI becoming a significant tool when it comes to generating playlists on streaming services.

“Spotify algorithms are based on user behaviour. Whereas with an AI tool, it can actually listen to a song and break down the sonic identity of that track in detail, meaning it can link tracks with similar lyrical content, for instance, which is a big change and could massively benefit lots of acts.” Boyle concludes.

“[ChatGPT] is like an electric bike for the mind, which lets you tackle bigger problems and to go faster. You still have to pedal – and it’s totally okay to choose to pedal an old-fashioned bike – but do not expect to cover the same ground with the same amount of effort as people who are using an electric bike.”

 


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Yamaha unveils first piano AI system

Yamaha Corporation has released footage of the world’s first artificial intelligence (AI) piano system, in the company’s latest foray into the world of live music AI.

The piano system, which made its debut at the Ars Electronica festival in Linz, Austria, is capable of playing any piece of music in the style of late pianist Glenn Gould. Music hologram production company Eyellusion has also expressed interest in bringing Gould back to life, in the form of a hologram tour.

At the festival, the system performed solo and a duet with pianist Francesco Tristano, accompanied by a trio of Bruckner Orchestra Linz members.

The system consists of a player piano and the AI software, which applies deep-learning technology to play any piece in Gould’s style with the aid of sheet music data.

It also includes Yamaha’s original AI Music Ensemble technology, enabling the system to analyse the performances of human pianists and play alongside them.

“To bring artificial intelligence into connection with music should be the beginning of a discussion that searches to expand and improve our virtuoso actions”

“To bring artificial intelligence into connection with music should not end in a competition, but should be the beginning of a discussion that searches to improve us and to expand and improve our virtuoso actions,” comments Martin Honzik, senior director of Ars Electronica Festival, Prix and Exhibitions divisions.

Brian M Levine, executive director of the Glenn Gould Foundation, recommends the project be “taken into the music mainstream” due to the “keen interest”, “great deal of attention” and “spirited debate” it will generate.

The AI piano concert marks Yamaha’s latest foray into live music AI, following the reproduction of the voice of Japanese singer Hibari Misora through its Vocaloid:AI singing synthesis technology.

According to Yamaha’s senior general manager of research and development division, Koichi Morita, the aim of such AI projects is to expand “the boundaries of musical creativity”.

“By sharing some of our ongoing results with music enthusiasts at Ars Electronica,” says Morita, “I feel we have taken another step toward realising these new possibilities.”

 


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Yamaha vocaloid recreates voice of late singer

Yamaha Corporation has reproduced the voice of legendary Japanese vocalist Hibari Misora, through its trademarked Vocaloid:AI singing synthesis technology.

The public debut of the technology took place on the television programme Bringing Hibari Misora Back with AI, broadcast in Japan on 29 September by the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation).

The NHK-led project used Yamaha’s technology to present a live performance of a new song by Misora, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of her death. A high-definition, 3D video reproduced the singer’s likeness for the rendition.

Vocaloid:AI is an adaptation of Yamaha’s original Vocaloid, released in 2003. The new version uses artificial intelligence to improve the reproduction of tonal changes, taking recordings of artists’ songs and speech as machine learning data.

“This new evolution of singing synthesis technology has illuminated new possibilities in music”

“We believe it was the Yamaha technologies and sensibilities cultivated over 130 years of developing and producing musical instruments and audio equipment which enabled us to successfully capture the essence of her singing,” comments Koichi Morita, general manager of the research and development division of Yamaha Corporation’s technology unit.

“Our cooperation in this project with this new evolution of singing synthesis technology has illuminated new possibilities in music by transcending the barriers of time to dazzle listeners with incredible singing.”

Vocaloids, or singing synthesisers, are being used increasingly across the entertainment industry. Hatsune Miku, a Japanese vocaloid embodied by a hologram of a 16-year-old girl, has sold out venues across the United States and is embarking on a 2020 European tour, playing shows at the O2 Academy Brixton (5,000-cap.) in London, La Villette (6,000-cap.) in Paris, Berlin’s Verti Music Hall (4,350-cap.), the Sant Jordi Club (4,620-cap.) in Spain and Amsterdam’s 17,000-capacity Ziggo Dome.

Artificial intelligence has also been used to recreate living celebrities, with “digital twins” being produced for Chinese girl group SNH48 and celebrity television hosts.

 


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AI creates “digital twins” for entertainment industry

Oben, a company specialising in personal artificial intelligence (PAI) technology, has created the first-ever AI entertainment hosts, who presented Chinese New Year programming together with their human counterparts.

On 28 January, the well-known television hosts Beining Sa, Xun Zhu, Bo Gao and Yang Long hosted China Central Television’s (CCTV) Network Spring Festival Gala alongside their “digital twins”, courtesy of Oben’s PAI technology.

An accompanying WeChat mini-app allowed viewers to use any of the four PAI hosts to send personalised new year’s greetings to friends and family. The celebrity PAIs delivered video messages to recipients, much in the way that human celebrities record personalised voicemails or Instagram videos for fans.

“The ‘digital twins’ facilitate new ways to engage viewers and fans in more personalised and unique experiences”

The PAIs created by Oben can look and sound like anyone in the world, constituting believable digital replicas of famous human figures. Using AI, the avatars can be taught to sing in another’s voice, perform specific dances and interact with fans through mobile devices.

The “digital twins” facilitate new ways to engage viewers and fans in more personalised and unique experiences. The technology has proved popular in the entertainment industry and Oben has worked on several celebrity partnerships.

The company is expanding into the music industry too. Oben recently released a human/ PAI duet music video with popular Chinese female idol group SNH48. The “digital twins” join their human counterparts in the video to sing, dance and interact with the band.

 


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