Last month, Grimes announced that she was willing to have artists clone her voice with the use of AI — but only if they were willing to “split 50 percent royalties.” To put her money where her mouth was, she even created an entire AI generator platform called Elf.Tech, specifically designed to copy her voice.
Now, an LA-based artist and producer named Kito has released a new track called ‘Cold Touch,’ the first officially released and credited song featuring Grimes’ cloned vocals. The song clearly made an impression, with Grimes lauding the track as a “masterpiece” and an “amazing song.” Kito’s version will also be followed by other tracks that Grimes collaborated on herself at a later date, according to the artist.
All in all, it’s a fascinating experiment that starkly contrasts Grimes’ approach to AI-generated music with that of her industry peers. Major record labels, after all, have been up in arms about tracks that use AI-generated vocals of famed musicians going viral on the internet. Take Universal Music Group, which forced a song that uses the AI-generated vocals of Drake and The Weeknd to be taken offline last month.
Grimes, on the other hand, has gone the other way and has chosen to embrace the tech instead. “Feel free to use my voice without penalty,” she wrote in a tweet last month. “I have no label and no legal bindings. I think it’s cool to be fused [with] a machine, and I like the idea of open-sourcing all art and killing copyright,” she added.
She did, however, add that “we may do copyright takedowns ONLY for really, really toxic lyrics with Grimes’ voice,” such as “baby murder songs” or “Nazi anthems,” which is fair enough, we’d say.
The musician’s newly-created Elf.Tech platform is meant to serve as a way to combat the “gatekeeping in music,” as Grimes said during a recent keynote at the International Music Summit. “Copyright sucks. Art is a conversation with everyone that’s come before us,” she said.
But given the central role copyright has always played in the music industry, Grimes’ comments are likely going to prove divisive, and not just to major record labels. Protecting one’s intellectual property could be the difference between making a living as an artist or being forced out of the industry due to a lack of funds.
While it’s too early to tell what kind of effect the tech will have on the music industry, there’s already evidence that AI-generated tracks are starting to flood the internet, possibly undermining the efforts of the humans that provided their foundation.