Youth Music column: Generation AI

Matt Griffiths
Friday, September 1, 2023

Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music, the young people's music charity, explores if AI can equalise access to music.

Youth music

The emergence of AI is revolutionising popular culture, but established artists and executives have rightly expressed concerns regarding its long-term impact on the music industries. However, these conversations have been dominated by those in privileged positions, crucially missing the voices and views of the young creatives that will evolve and run the future music industries.

How AI factors into creativity

Youth Music's recent research (see link below) revealed that two-thirds of young people (63%) are embracing AI to assist in their creativity, including music-making. For many, AI is ingrained in their workflows – whether it has been adopted for years or tested for only a couple of months.

Tom Auton, a 24-year-old rock artist and producer from Cardiff, said that AI has helped him finish songs quicker, commenting: ‘It's helped me expand my vocabulary by looking at different kinds of phrases, different sorts of words than I would normally use in a song.’

Breaking financial and accessibility barriers?

While unchecked generative AI has caused alarm bells to sound throughout the industry, when used in an assistive way, it could remove barriers for young people to make, learn and earn in music. Some young people we interviewed use AI to aid with the creative process of music-making. In fact, AI technology is already embedded in many production tools, as Tee Peters – musician and programme manager at Youth Music funded partner Sound Connections – explained to Sky News recently (see link below).

However, many more are using AI to support the business side of their artistry, allowing more time to work on their passion. This has been invaluable, especially for those juggling other obligations, such as studying or working multiple jobs. Tia Talks, a 24-year-old MC, artist and concierge, hailed AI as something that has helped her manage her workload. She said: ‘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.

‘Usually, you’d pay for writers to write up things like your artist bio, your press releases, creating a marketing strategy. But 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.’

What the future holds

Conversations surrounding the future of the music industry include concerns of creativity being choked by the advance of these algorithms. And that automation and machines will displace people – or, rather, that the people in control of these will use them to displace everyone else.

The Youth Music NextGen creatives interviewed portrayed a more positive outlook on the future of the industry, where AI is used to assist rather than generate, keeping the aspect of human creativity sacred.

Tia Talks added: ‘I think as long as we're able to ensure that the human process to music is still the main process, and we allow for AI to be used as a useful tool rather than something that takes over, the music industry should be OK. Fighting back against it is not going to stop it, because AI is going to continue to integrate into our lives more and more.’

There are still important questions to be addressed around the monetising of AI, the ownership of content, and the impact on professionals working in music. But it's clear that AI is fast becoming embedded in the lives of young people. And they're excited at its potential to equalise access to making, learning and earning in music. So shouldn't we be, too?