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Artificial intelligence vs. artistic integrity: the battle in the streaming industry

AI is changing the game in the entertainment industry, but at what cost to human creativity? Let’s dive into the controversies and consequences of AI's rise in music, scriptwriting, and popular streaming platforms.

AI significantly influences our music experiences by curating playlists and notifying us about local band performances. Streaming platforms like Spotify have also inadvertently reshaped the landscape of songwriting. For example, the infamous pay-per-stream model, which only counts listens longer than 30 seconds as payable plays, has changed the ways that many artists structure their songs.

Artists often pack their songs' hooks and choruses into the intro to capture the listener's attention and discourage skipping within those crucial first 30 seconds. This shift in song structure, essentially front-loading the most engaging elements, underscores the profound impact of technology on creative expression and the economics of the music industry. But the jury is still out on whether technology is ruining how we listen to music.

Rise of the plagiarism machines

In recent weeks, the advent of AI-generated music has presented a significant challenge for music streaming platforms. AI technology, providing innovative means of producing music, has inadvertently facilitated a wave of fake and unlicensed content, posing legal, ethical, and financial dilemmas. AI music generation techniques can scrape melodies and lyrics from copyrighted songs, creating derivative works without explicit permission from the original copyright holders.

Universal Music Group, among others, has raised concerns about this unauthorized use of copyrighted material, pressuring platforms like Spotify to inhibit such practices. The issue first reported by Vice is further exacerbated by the business model that platforms like Spotify adhere to, where royalty distribution is based on the number of times a song is streamed.

This model has unintentionally incentivized the proliferation of fraudulent services promising increased visibility and success through the online sale of streams.

Spotify has unwittingly created an environment ripe for manipulation through artificially generated streams, as bots can play AI-generated songs repeatedly, skewing stream counts and royalty distributions.

The scale of the problem is difficult to estimate. But a study in France suggested that between one and three percent of all music played on popular streaming platforms had been requested by bots, amounting to potentially billions of fake streams.

The issue goes beyond financial implications as human artists are pitted against AI-generated music and fake listeners. It affects the core of artistic creativity and challenges the value of human-made music. If left unchecked, such practices could diminish the motivation for artists to create new music, thereby threatening the vibrancy and diversity of the music ecosystem.

In response to these mounting pressures, Spotify has initiated countermeasures, such as removing vast quantities of songs from AI music start-ups like Boomy. However, the challenge of effectively policing its platform remains. While it’s crucial to acknowledge the potential of AI in music generation and other creative fields, it's equally essential to establish robust measures to prevent technology misuse, preserve artists' rights, and maintain a fair and viable music industry.

AI-powered scriptwriting: a seismic shift in Hollywood

The ongoing Hollywood writers' strike has spotlighted a new, potentially seismic shift in the film industry — the advent of AI-powered scriptwriting. The rise of streaming platforms has already disrupted traditional industry models, often relegating writers to precarious, gig-based roles.

Now, with AI tools like ChatGPT poised to participate in the scriptwriting process, writers are understandably concerned. They worry that studios might circumvent the need for human creativity, thereby denying writers their rightful royalty payments. The fear is that AI could exacerbate the already unstable professional landscape writers are navigating, diminishing their roles and undermining their worth.

Writers strike 2023
Writers strike 2023. By Shutterstock

These fears are not unfounded, given that AI's potential applications in scriptwriting are vast. For example, AI tools such as ChatGPT could be used to draft scripts based on existing books or public domain works, creating a first draft that human writers could refine. With such an approach, studios might see an opportunity to mitigate the impact of a writers' strike, replacing a significant portion of the workforce with AI technology. This is not just a hypothetical scenario; industry insiders have revealed that many studios are already contemplating this shift.

The potential role of AI in scriptwriting also raises important questions about the nature of creative work and authorship. AI has already permeated many aspects of film production, from de-aging actors and censoring dialogue in post-production to curating viewer recommendations on streaming platforms. However, as AI edges closer to the creative heart of filmmaking — the writing process — it encounters resistance.

Screenwriters, accustomed to facing replacement and competition, view AI as a new, unsettling rival. Despite its computational prowess, they argue that AI lacks the human touch necessary to weave compelling narratives and create emotionally resonant characters. The screenwriters' skepticism goes beyond AI's creative limitations. Understandably, they fear that the use of AI in scriptwriting is indicative of a broader industry trend that undervalues their craft.

Many argue that relegating the role of a screenwriter to editing an AI-generated script is both dismissive of their skills and representative of the wider industry's lack of respect for the writing profession. While AI may offer efficiencies and cost-saving measures, the battle lines drawn by the writers' strike suggest that Hollywood may face a significant backlash if it underestimates the value of human creativity and storytelling in favor of technological solutions.

Embracing AI, but not at the expense of human creativity

As we stand at the intersection of technology and creativity, it's essential to recognize the profound implications of this convergence. Streaming platforms, underpinned by AI, are undeniably transforming the entertainment landscape. They have reconfigured how we consume music and movies and have unintentionally influenced the creative process. AI's role in molding song structures to adapt to pay-per-stream models and its potential use in scriptwriting are tangible examples of this shift.

However, amidst the technological marvels and efficiencies AI brings, we must remember that human creativity brings our entertainment to life. The human touch gives depth to a character, the soul to a melody, and resonance to a story. So, contrary to popular opinion, AI, no matter how advanced, lacks the nuanced understanding of human experiences that is the essence of genuinely impactful art.

The idea of AI replacing human creativity is far-fetched, perhaps a premise befitting a science fiction tale. It's a la-la land of its own, one that fails to grasp the intrinsic value of human creativity. Even as we continue to leverage AI for innovation and enhancement in the entertainment industry, we must ensure it complements and catalyzes human imagination rather than attempting to replace it.

Ultimately, the narrative isn't about AI versus human creativity but how the two can coexist and collaborate. We must work towards a future where AI empowers artists and writers, providing them with new tools and opportunities without eroding the foundations of their craft. This symbiosis could lead to unexplored territories of creativity and storytelling, fostering an entertainment landscape that is as technologically advanced as it is deeply human.

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