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The Number of Songs in the World Doubled Yesterday
Did you even notice?
The number of songs in the world doubled yesterday. Did you even notice?
An artificial intelligence company in Delaware boasted, in a press release, that it had created 100 million new songs. That’s roughly equivalent to the entire catalog of music available on Spotify.
It took thousands of years of human creativity to make the first 100 million songs. But an AI bot matched that effort in a flash.
The company notes that this adds up to 4.8 million hours of creativity.
We are truly living in a golden age of new music. You now have access to a potential playlist for your lifetime . . . and the next thirty generations.
And we’re only at the start of the AI revolution.
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The goal here is infinity. Until this week, I didn’t think infinity could be an artistic goal—or even a guideline—but that’s precisely the aim of Mubert (the name of the company behind this breakthrough).
The company’s CEO—also named Mubert—declared:
“Mubert allows for the generation of an unlimited amount of music of any duration and any genre.”
At first, I thought this might be a prank. Even that name—Mubert—sounds like a parody of Mozart. I was actually hoping that the CEO’s full name was Wolfgang Amadeus Mubert.
No dice. The boss at this startup is Alex Mubert, a software engineer living in Dubai (according to his LinkedIn profile). That same source tells me that he once studied bass at Jazz College.
I don’t know where Jazz College is, but they ought to be celebrating there today. An alum has created half the music in human history.
It’s possible that years from now, the history of music will be divided into two phases: Before Mubert and After Mubert. We are blessed to live at the dawn of this new era of musical abundance.
Mubert isn’t alone—many others are chasing after this same Nirvana of never-ending playlists. A few weeks ago, another AI company called Boomy (who comes up with these names?) announced that it had created more than 14 million AI tracks.
Spotify responded by pulling these songs from its platform, but Spotify also seems to have a love affair with AI music, especially if it potentially enriches the company at the expense of human composers.
But Mubert has one huge advantage.
The company trained its AI on music obtained legally for that purpose. This means Mubert may be invincible to the copyright litigation that threatens to kill other areas of AI creation.
That’s a huge competitive advantage in the music business right now, where lawyers run the show with more bravado than Barnum, Bailey and the Ringling Brothers put together. You could even put Mubert on the stand in a trial, and he or it (depending on which Mubert you swear in) has an airtight alibi for any plagiarism claim. The AI never heard a song without legal permission.
Not even Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran possess that super power.
I guess I should be celebrating. I’m a music critic and my supply of songs doubled overnight.
So why is Ted so glum?
I guess I’m disappointed at how this AI revolution is playing out. We were promised a new AI-constructed Bach with better music. But all we’re getting is more music.
Something broke on the levee, and AI songs are pouring out in torrents, threatening to wash away everything else.
Now, I can’t claim to have listened to all 100 million of these songs. But I’ve heard enough AI music to realize how lousy it is.
And if the first 100 million AI songs suck, my enthusiasm for the next 100 million is nil. That’s how things work in creative fields—people judge you by your track record.
Back in February, I warned of a mind-numbing oversupply of content in my “State of the Culture 2023” address. As many of you know, I hate the word content, when it’s used to describe human creativity. But it is the perfect term to describe the output of the AI sausage factories that are making inroads everywhere in the culture.
We don’t need more supply in music, or other creative fields. The real shortage is demand. And the ultimate shortage is genius, which usually goes under names like Mozart and Beethoven, not Mobert and Boomy.
Somebody needs to remind Mubert the AI Bot (or Mubert the CEO) that in the music business you get an audition, and you play your best stuff first. If the first couple songs don’t sound good, you don’t get another chance.
So here’s my challenge to Mubert. Quit bragging about your 100 million tracks. Just pick the best two or three, and let us listen to them—and make up our minds.
I probably sound flippant here.
And, it’s true, I have a tendency to laugh at the boastful claims being made for improving the arts with AI technology. There’s something ridiculous about this music—or, to put it more clearly, there’s something ridiculous about the mismatch between the music itself and the claims made for it.
But I really need to emphasize that this is no laughing matter. The larger picture here is ominous:
For the first time in history, the most powerful and wealthy companies are all tech global players with consumer-facing platforms.
Every one of them is now obsessed with AI as a profit-generating opportunity.
The various AI projects they’re pursuing are all different, but they have one thing in common: They involve flooding the culture with torrents of AI garbage—the metrics are all quantitative, not qualitative (because, hey, that’s how they roll).
Quality checks are actually viewed as hindrances. In the mad gold rush mentality of the AI revolution, quality slows things down—so even the most basic safeguards are ditched or ignored.
But genuine creativity operates in the qualitative realm. In that sphere, numbers are meaningless. Mozart’s Requiem or the The White Album or other works of that sort can’t be replaced with 100 million AI tracks—numbers don’t work like that.
The more garbage you dump into our polluted culture, the more obvious this becomes.
If this is correct, it means that we have arrived at a crossroads in music. We have reached a new era, and it is NOT the Era of Mobert. The real defining fact is that the largest richest corporations in the world are now operating as enemies of the music culture.
They want to replace musicians with bots—to make more money.
They want to replace quality with quantity—to make more money.
And they want to do this as fast as possible—to make more money.
So this is serious stuff, despite my joking tone. But I still have to laugh at it, at least a little bit.
That’s because the technocrats are overplaying their hand. The real end result of all these AI sausage factory projects is likely to be the exact opposite of what they intend. They’re simply reminding us of how much we love the music of actual human beings—who laugh and cry and love and hurt just like the rest of us.
My hunch is that the next milestones in this circus, when the number of AI tracks surpasses a billion and then a trillion, will only make that all the more clear. Those sound like enormous numbers, but this is really only months away.
If this smells like an unsustainable trend, it’s because it is. Something is going to collapse here. I don’t think it’s gonna be Mozart.