A new survey finds that nearly two-thirds of young creatives aged 16-24 use AI in some part of their creation process.
Conversations abound surrounding the ebb and flow of generative AI in the music and creative industries, with the creation and distribution of music on the cusp of significant change. It’s in the midst of that discussion that UK-based nonprofit music education organization Youth Music sat down with young creatives to glean their perspective of the so-called AI revolution.
Of those surveyed, 63% — nearly two-thirds of the younger creatives — say they are embracing artificial intelligence to assist in the creative process. That number decreases with each older generation, with only 19% of those aged over 55 likely to use AI to assist in their creative vision.
How does AI factor into young people’s creative process?
For younger generations, AI programs have become ingrained into their workflow, with those interviewed sharing the ways it has aided in increasing their productivity, whether they had adopted it over the last few years or tested it only for a couple of months.
“AI allows me to do jobs faster, which as pretty shocking at first, but once I used it over and over again, it became a part of my daily practice and a part of my job,” said Lewis Dobbs, a third-year media and creative industry student based in Leamington Spa in England. “I think in that sense it’s really great when you’re allowed to control it and be in charge.”
“Right now, I consider it to be almost a plaything, something that isn’t really overly serious,” Dobbs continues. “I think the reason I’m using it now is because I know that it doesn’t have the power to take over. I wouldn’t be basing my work off it; it’s mainly a tool and I think you have to be the one to have an original idea in the first place in order for it to really come to fruition the way you like. But I think using AI tools can allow you to get there faster.”
“It’s helped me expand my vocabulary by looking at different kinds of phrases, different sorts of words than what I would normally use in a song,” adds 24-year-old Tom Auton, a rock musician and producer from Cardiff. “Sometimes when it’s just written there in front of you, by the AI, it makes you look at it in different ways.”
“AI has made it that (much) quicker because I’ve got folders ready to draw inspiration from, or it’s thrown out a chord progression that I’ve really liked — I can then write lyrics from that and now there’s a song that’s been written way quicker,” says Jenni, a singer-songwriter from Manchester.
“I would have found it very helpful to have an interactive system to bounce off to foster a creative environment, almost like a video game,” muses composer and researcher Dr. Robert Laidlow of Jesus College, Oxford, when asked about the impact AI could have on young people’s creative process. “Rather than making a piece you might make with an AI, you’re making an environment in which you’re both coming up with ideas and you’re bouncing off things and exploring. I can see that being very helpful.”
“If AI is being used in an intuitive and interactive way, almost like a human collaborator or one that you could just summon up on your computer at home, that’d be very helpful,” Dr. Laidlow concludes.
How can AI be used as a tool to break financial and accessibility barriers?
Unchecked generative AI causes an understandable level of apprehension and alarm throughout the industry, but when used to assist creatives, it can become a “tool for good” that can prove revolutionary in efforts to equalize access to the music industry.
Many of the creatives surveyed have used AI to remove financial barriers and substantial time commitments when working on their music. This is an invaluable tactic for many, particularly students juggling creative passions with obligations or creating music around a day job.
“I’m self-managing, and as I was doing so much admin, it was taking away from my time to create and make music, so I thought about ways that I could use it to ease the load that I was carrying,” says Tia Talks, a 24-year-old MC, artist, and concierge.
“It’s just trying to take away tasks from myself and outsource them whilst preserving my budget, because I’m working with small budgets, so I don’t have the money to pay an assistant. So that’s where ChatGPT has been useful, mostly strategy-based and getting it to write emails for me and other things that I just don’t want to think about as an artist.”
“Usually you’d pay for writers to write up things like your artist bio, your press releases, creating a marketing strategy. I’m not having to work with anybody else to do those things. I’m working with the AI technology to do it, which is a lot more convenient because I can get answers quickly and I can withdraw information anytime I want.”
25-year-old Tee Peters, an artist and producer from London, says he’s used AI to progress with his career, with no major financial commitment in marketing methods. “Other than cutting down production time, I think the difference that AI has made to my creative practice is having a selection of assistants that I don’t need to pay for to get certain tasks done.”
“I think AI has helped because it means I don’t have to put a massive burden on myself to get the things that I would have to do by myself done,” Peters adds. “I no longer have to allocate a whole day to something, but I can delegate tasks to the AI.”
Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant told The Guardian that he felt AI could be a useful tool in a songwriter’s kit, potentially used to help musicians overcome writers’ block and finish songs. Many of the artists surveyed by Youth Music echo this belief.
“Lyrics are not my strong suit,” says Tom Auton. “I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily weak at them, but I just find that they take me the longest out of the creative process. A friend of mine showed me this platform and said, ‘I think you might benefit from something like this if collaboration isn’t available.’”
“You can type in a lyric or a phrase and it’ll essentially give you anywhere between seven and 10 alternative lyric ideas based off the ones that you’ve put in. You can input things like what genre you want and how creative you want it to be, which I think is quite interesting.”
What are young people’s thoughts on the current/future state of the music industry as a result of AI?
“There are different aspects to it, but I think it’s incredibly impressive what people are doing,” says Auton. “If AI could do those mundane, boring tasks that nobody enjoys, humans could spend more time on the things that humans are meant for — being creative and thinking of innovative ideas. I feel like this is a good thing.”
“(While) you can ask AI ‘how do I make a song from scratch,’ and it will come up with something, I feel like there’s always going to be human knowledge or human experience that allows you to make something you really want to make,” says Lewis Dobbs.
Dr. Laidlow expressed that AI is not “a sci-fi brain that’s coming out of nowhere. It doesn’t think, it’s not anything. It’s just maths; AI is just statistics — it’s just doing statistics really fast. I reject the notion that it is an external force. We’re humans, we’ve made this technology just like we’ve made all other technologies, and it’s up to us to decide what to do with it.”
“Whilst the emergence of AI is revolutionizing popular culture, established artists and executives have rightly expressed concerns regarding its long-term impact on the music industries,” says Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music. “There are still important questions to be addressed around the monetizing of AI and the ownership of content, for example.”
“However, what we’re hearing right now from the next generation of creatives is excitement around its potential to equalize access to making, learning, and earning in music. Especially those who don’t have the advantage of expensive music education or equipment to aid their learning process, or paid support to run their business,” Griffiths continues.
“The fact that two-thirds of young people see AI as a useful tool in their creative arsenal reinforces this idea that there is a future for AI in the creative sphere. From their perspective, our research shows that AI is leveling the playing field, which will ensure a more diverse pipeline of talent entering the music industries.”