Google has created a new artificial intelligence platform that can generate all kinds of musical genres, but the Silicon Valley giant won’t be releasing it – at least for now.

MusicLM can create and conjure up music based on a user’s text input, such as “a calming violin melody backed by a distorted guitar riff”.

But, citing concerns over its potential impact on the $35 billion global music industry, including copyright, Google has no plans yet to roll out the technology to the public.

The Google office
Google has created a new artificial intelligence system called MusicLM that can produce music in any genre from a text description (Adobe Stock)
MusicLM was trained on a dataset of 280,000 hours of music to learn to generate coherent songs, according to an academic paper detailing the AI’s capabilities.
The system works similar to ChatGPT, which uses AI to churn out stories, poems, essays and all manner of clean and concise writing in just seconds.

Much like ChatGPT, MusicLM is seriously impressive but has imperfections.

There are no musicians or instrumentalists in any of the loops, which cover genres ranging from jazz to country to electronica and death metal.

The more detailed and complex the input, the more nuanced the music.

In another display of its prowess, Google asked MusicLM to produce music that captures the mood and atmosphere of some of the art world’s most well-known masterpieces, like Edvard Munch’s The Scream and Salvador Dalí’s The Persistence of Memory.

The Scream by Edvard Munch
Google researchers asked MusicLM to interpret The Scream by Edvard Munch, and other priceless masterpieces. (Børre Høstland / The Fine Art Collections, The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design; Gift of Olaf Schou 1910, NG.M.00939. CC BY 4.0) (Creative Commons)

For now at least, vocals on the samples are raw and often nonsensical, but the foundations have been laid by Google in a way previously unseen.

There have been other AI music generators, but none have delivered the complexity of MusicLM’s output, largely because of technical limitations and limited training data.

Despite its promising output, Google researchers cited ethical considerations at the centre of its decision to not release the AI for general use.

Researchers noted a tendency of the system to incorporate copyrighted material from training data into the generated songs.

“We acknowledge the risk of potential misappropriation of creative content associated to the use case,” the co-authors of the paper wrote.

“We strongly emphasize the need for more future work in tackling these risks associated to music generation.”

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But some legal experts claim that Google’s training of MusicLM, by reviewing hundreds of thousands of musical pieces and songs, is itself a contravention of music copyright.

A 2021 whitepaper investigated the implications of AI-generated music, ranging from issues of ownership, to rights of publicity.

Author Eric Sunray said AI music generators like MusicLM violated copyright by creating “tapestries of coherent audio from the works they ingest in training, thereby infringing the United States Copyright Act’s reproduction right.”

Sunray said the music industry had only just recovered from the illegal filesharing threat but now AI was presenting “an even more disruptive technological phenomenon”.

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