Spotify is not planning to completely ban AI-generated music from the music streaming platform, according to its boss, Daniel Ek.
In an interview with the BBC, Ek acknowledged that there are good and bad use cases for AI in music.
A “three-bucket” technology
The use of AI has recently sparked debates with others in support of the technology, while on the other hand, some artists and listeners have openly questioned its use on ethical grounds.
The Spotify boss indicated the music platform has embraced AI in music and will not completely remove it from its catalogs, citing that it can enhance music production. However, using an artist’s voice without their consent cannot be tolerated.
“You can imagine someone uploading a song, claiming to be Madonna, even if they’re not,” he said during the interview.
“We’ve seen pretty much everything in the history of Spotify at this point with people trying to game our system,” he said.
Ek described AI as a “three-bucket” technology with tools that can improve music, for instance, auto-tune. The second aspect he cited are tools that can mimic or clone artists’ voices, while the third scenario entails tools that can create music using AI inspired by existing artists, but generate music without manipulating the existing artists’ style.
Of the three categories, Ek thinks using auto-tune or similar tools is acceptable, while mimicking artists is totally unacceptable, and the last form is a middle ground.
The AI debate
Ek has also highlighted that the use of AI in music will always inspire debate as stakeholders in the music and arts industries continue to weigh the pros and cons of the technology.
Earlier this year, Spotify removed from its platform an AI-generated song that used the voices of Drake and The Weeknd. Titled “Heart on My Sleeve,” the track ignited debate and generated a lot of interest. It was viewed more than 8.5 million times on TikTok, while the full version was played 254,000 times on Spotify, barely a week after it was posted.
Later on, its creator, Ghostwriter, tried to get it nominated for a Grammy but was turned down.
Commenting on the track, rapper and actor Ice Cube was vocal about labeling AI “demonic,” adding the practice “is terrible.”
Drake himself expressed displeasure at the track. Universal Music Group (UMG) wrote to streaming services including Spotify and Apple Music, asking them to prevent AI companies from accessing their libraries.
Apart from the “Heart on My Sleeve” song, The Financial Times reported in May that Spotify had removed thousands of tracks from its platform after it was discovered bots were used to inflate their streaming figures.
While there are challenges that have already been identified with AI usage that may conflict with the company’s principles, Ek has hinted that Spotify will improve on handling AI-generated music on the streaming platform.
“We have a very large team that is working on exactly these types of issues,” he said.
Although Spotify has not yet banned AI music on its platform, it still restricts the use of its content to train AI models.
Meanwhile, Ek also discussed Spotify’s investments in podcasts. During the same interview, he spoke about podcasts, including those involving high-profile figures like the Obamas and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.