AI: The Challenges Of Marketing A Faceless Product
Will we start to see more AI stars emerge across the globe in the future and if so, how would record labels tackle promoting artists who are not human?
The impact that Artificial Intelligence is going to have on the music industry is a topic that is slowly but surely making its way into the public eye. You may not be aware that the world already has an AI pop star who is a major success in Japan. This poses the question, will we start to see more AI stars emerge across the globe in the future and if so, how would record labels tackle promoting artists who are not human?
Hatsune Miku is a humanoid persona voice by a singing synthesiser application developed by Crypton Future Media. Miku is designed to be a 16-year-old girl with long, turquoise twin tails. She uses Yamaha Corporation’s Vocaloid 2, Vocaloid 3 and Vocaloid 4 singing synthesising technologies.
Her voice is modelled from Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita and the name comes from merging the Japanese words hatsu (sound) and miku (future). Miku is unquestionably a huge star in Japan, appearing on billboards, in TV commercials and even performs as a projection in sold-out concerts to thousands of fans around the world.
She was originally designed just to be a character on the packaging of the Vocaloid 2 software with a brief backstory which labelled her ‘an android diva in the near-future world where songs are lost.’ Music makers swiftly started creating hundreds of thousands of original songs performed by the software which were released on the internet and fans started creating software which added choreography to her songs.
What makes Miku unique and powers her success is that it is completely driven by her fan base and social media. The creators, Crypton, allow Miku-fronted songs to retain all the rights to the compositions. Many tracks which unknown users make go on to become incredibly popular and even make it into the J-Pop charts.
Crypton makes its money through selling the software, merchandise and by putting on concerts so that fans have the chance to see her live. 2009 was the year of Hatsune Miku’s first live concert using 3D hologram technology as corporations began to cash in on her rising popularity.
You can watch the video of one of Hatsune Miku's performance below
The biggest question we are left with now is could a similar creation ever take-off in Europe or in the USA and become a major music star or is Hatsune Miku a one-of-a-kind success story? That remains to be seen but it is not beyond the realms of possibility that a digitally created, AI pop star, or perhaps multiple stars could become famous worldwide and achieve enormous success.
With that in mind, how will record labels promote these artists? This is just one of many important questions for record labels and music marketers to consider. Other important points include:
What's the legal difference between human inspiration and machine inspiration?
What happens if a song is released with AI that has learned to sound like Kanye West's voice and write lyrics like him?
Who should get the royalty if a future number one hit is written by a machine?
Do people care if the music is created by a human or machine?
Sebastian Lindroth Ahl has over 10 years experience working in the music industry, representing record labels and artists. He has previously worked with the likes of Justin Bieber, The Rolling Stones and Zara Larsson.
In February 2017 he founded Yours In Distress, a record label for music created by artificial intelligence based in Stockholm, Sweden. He views the project as being an R&D department for the music industry where he and his colleagues can experiment with ideas using AI.
As we look to the future, record labels will certainly need to adapt to the emergence of AI and work out a way to market faceless products when we reach a point where general artificial intelligence becomes a music star.
Ahl believes that people will still buy into music which is created by AI as long as that piece of music is creative, original and relatable. He is also under the impression that it may in fact be easier to market an AI artist as opposed to a human. "The more artistic and accepted artists become, then the easier it becomes to market them", he explained.
"It’s not only about the music, it’s about relevance. Is the artist and their music relevant, are they important, are they standing for something meaningful and valuable? If you have an artificial artist you can create whatever attributes you want them to have. It might be challenging, but also easier in a way", he continued.
We could reach a point where human music and music created by artificial intelligence becomes indistinguishable. Drew Silverstein, CEO/co-founder of AI start-up company Amper Music, believes that is an inevitability and if that does become the case then this echoes Ahl’s point that it will be easier to market an AI artist. The listener may not necessarily hear AI tracks as being any different to those created by humans and will they care when they find out this information? While this is debatable, one would imagine it’s unlikely that this would affect how they feel about a song, especially if it has had a profound effect on them.