We’re barely touching the surface of how artificial intelligence could be applied in art, but musicians are already experimenting with it. However, if an AI-assisted work is to be considered for a Grammy, they must ensure that their contribution is “meaningful,” according to the new regulations.

According to a recent modification to the famed awards’ eligibility requirements, “Only human creators are eligible to be submitted for consideration,” and “A work that contains no human authorship is not eligible in any Categories.”

However, AI is not a death sentence. The Grammy authorities, in a sensible and astutely open-ended exception to this rule, allow for any work in which “the human authorship component of the work submitted must be meaningful and more than de minimis.” Furthermore, authorship must be relevant to the category under which the music is filed; for example, for “songwriting,” the AI cannot have created the song.

What does all of this mean? Assume you utilized an AI-powered program to create a loop of some instruments you played. This is layered with the drums and recorded instruments, and the vocals you wrote are recorded on top. There is no difficulty here! The AI is essentially a tool or effect, similar to a pedal or filter.

But what if you had the AI produce lyrics based on a cue and then sing them in the style of David Crosby… Riffusion then puts together some beats and instrumentation. Finally, add some unique created tones from Brian Eno’s Reflection.

No one would argue that you had no creative influence in the resulting track, regardless of its quality (which, at a guess, isn’t terrific). But were you the lyricist, singer, composer, or instrumentalist? Not in the way that those terms are typically understood or acknowledged. And certainly not according to the people who make the rules at the Grammys.

This policy of banning pure AI works while allowing them to be employed as tools is most likely the best way forward for awards like this. We’ve previously seen how bad actors can overwhelm publications with AI-generated content in the hopes of landing a sponsored position or even just recognition. Deepfakes and AI-generated content are already making their way into streaming services. Music is also vulnerable to disruption from individuals who would misuse AI technology rather than use it artistically.

It must be stated that generative music is more than just valid; it is now practically a genre unto itself. Some of its most renowned works were created in a basic manner (even by their authors). However, it appears unlikely that the Grammys would reject Eno’s Music For Airports if it were presented today, given it is evident that “meaningful” human authorship is involved. But they wouldn’t let me play three minutes of random Generative.fm or Kriller tunes.

As I previously stated, the policy is admirably open-ended, allowing the organization to exercise its discretion in what they describe as “lacking significance or importance; so minor as to merit disregard.” This definition will undoubtedly change in the next years as major artists embrace, reject, or reluctantly incorporate AI-powered technologies into their creative processes.


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