A viral AI-generated ‘collaboration’ between Drake and The Weeknd was ripped down by Universal Music Group — but not before it garnered a quick half-a-million views. It’s the latest in a string of AI concoctions to get ‘whacked’ by UMG — with potentially many more to come.
For those pontificating about the dystopian future of AI, perhaps that moment has already arrived for the music industry.
After forcing the removal of numerous AI-generated tracks on major DSPs like Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, and Apple Music, mega-major Universal Music Group is now shifting its sights on YouTube. As of Monday evening (April 17th), a quickly-exploding, AI-generated ‘collaboration’ between Drake and The Weeknd was abruptly torn down on copyright infringement grounds.
For those who heard the track, the concoction was actually listenable — and certainly believable for anyone who didn’t know better. ‘Ghostwriter,’ the owner of the YouTube account where the video appeared, ominously promised that ‘this is just the beginning,’ though it also looks like Ghostwriter’s account has been deleted.
The teardown comes just hours after Drake himself responded to a completely different AI-generated track that also went viral.
That would be the AI-concocted version of the artist rapping Ice Spice’s recent hit, “Munch.” It’s a deliciously comical reinterpretation — that is, unless it happens to be your voice being reinterpreted. “This is the last straw,” Drake wrote on Instagram, while pointing to his parent label UMG’s efforts to clamp down on AI-generated content on streaming services.
Incidentally, it looks like any videos using the Drake/Weeknd collaboration are also getting taken down. But at this stage, it’s becoming difficult to keep track of a proliferating list of AI-generated tracks. The aforementioned Ice Spice track is still readily available on YouTube, along with a bevy of other AI-generated Drake re-imaginations.
Indeed, AI-generated Drake tracks are exploding, with versions spanning believable to absolutely absurd. The latter includes Drake covering Colbie Caillat’s “Bubbly,” complete with some equally-ridiculous cover art. Other AI-powered explorations into the ridiculous are readily available, including Kanye West covering George Micheal’s “Careless Whisper,” “Munch,” and — you get the idea.
So what happens to this cornucopia of AI-generated infringement?
For those that remember the late-90s/early-2000s, ‘whack-a-mole’ is a familiar term. After the death of Napster, major labels like Universal Music Group found themselves locked in an endless string of site closures and teardowns — with cloned imitations reappearing in a matter of days. Now, it looks like AI is stirring a similar cycle, with endless fake songs, covers, and absurdities springing up on YouTube, SoundCloud, and other spots.
Against that onslaught, YouTube may be under pressure to AI-generate a stepped-up Content ID update. Similarly, streaming services like Spotify may find themselves applying extra scrutiny to uploads — even if that means inspecting the tens of thousands of tracks arriving on its doorstep daily.
More as this develops.