YouTube is testing an artificial intelligence tool that reproduces the voices of pop stars

YouTube is testing an artificial intelligence tool that reproduces the voices of pop stars

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Demi Lovato is one of the artists who has licensed her voice on YouTube

  • author, Mark Savage
  • Role, BBC music correspondent
In a glance

  • Artists, including Charli XCX, Charli Puth, Troye Sivan and Sia, allow YouTube to “clone” their voices.
  • Users will be able to create songs that feature their songs with a simple text message.
  • The beta tool is currently only available to about 100 users.
  • It comes as the music industry reckons with the possibilities and pitfalls of artificial intelligence.

YouTube has unveiled an artificial intelligence tool that allows users to imitate pop stars such as Demi Lovato and John Legend.

The experimental feature, called Dream Track, allows users to create short songs by describing qualities including lyrical content and mood.

The program allowed nine artists to “clone” their voices, including Charli XCX, Troye Sivan, T-Pain and Sia.

Currently, about 100 creators in the US have been granted access to the tool, which can only be used for audio clips on YouTube Shorts – the platform’s competitor to TikTok.

The company has released two sample videos made with Dream Track, which feature passable, but obviously lower quality, imitations of Charlie Puth and T-Pain.

Puth’s track was created by the claim: “A song about how opposites attract, upbeat acoustic.”

The result looks like a low-quality MP3 file filled with digital artwork. At times, Booth’s voice sounds “smeared” with consonants that are sometimes distorted and unclear.

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But the track is recognizable in the style of R&B-leaning pop songs; And the words, though corny, fit the bill: “Darling, we have nothing in common/but I know I’m what you wanted“.

In a blog post, YouTube’s head of music said the tool is designed to “test, learn, get feedback and hear ideas” from artists and viewers.

“In this initial phase, the experience is designed to help explore how technology can be used to create deeper connections between artists, creators, and, ultimately, their fans,” said Lyor Cohen, who previously helped launch the careers of artists like Run. DMC and Beastie Boys.

The launch comes just 24 hours after YouTube announced that it would begin alerting viewers when they watch a video made using artificial intelligence.

The Google-owned company also said it will allow people to request the removal of videos that use artificial intelligence to simulate an identifiable person.

Dream Track is different because it has the explicit endorsement of participating artists — but the split reflects a broader debate about artificial intelligence in the creative industries.

Many of the tools that have emerged so far appear to have been trained on copyrighted material, leading to lawsuits by authors such as Jonathan Franzen, Jodi Picoult, and George R.R. Martin.

In April, Universal Music successfully petitioned streaming services to remove a song called Heart On My Sleeve, which used AI-generated vocals by its artists Drake and The Weeknd.

The company said in a statement that “training generative AI using our artists’ music” was “a violation of copyright law” — though that position has not been tested in court, and remains a legal gray area.

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T-Pain: “I’ve always strived to push the boundaries of technology and harness it to make the most interesting music for my fans.”

But Universal chief Lucian Grainge was also among the music industry figures championing YouTube’s latest development.

“In this dynamic, rapidly evolving market, artists benefit most when we engage together with our technology partners to work toward an environment where responsible AI can take root and grow,” he said in a statement. “Only through active, constructive and deep engagement can we build a mutually successful future together.”

Participating artists echoed his comments, albeit with some caveats.

“When YouTube first approached me, I was cautious and I still am,” Charli XCX said.

“AI will transform the world and the music industry in ways we don’t yet fully understand. This experiment will provide a small insight into the creative opportunities that could be possible, and I’m interested to see what comes out of that.”

“The development of AI technology is happening rapidly and we must be part of this process,” T-Pain added, expressing a common theme.

Demi Lovato agreed, saying, “I think we as artists need to be a part of shaping what this future looks like.”

While the ability to replicate famous sounds will get the most attention, Google has also announced several other AI music projects, including a tool that allows artists to hum a melody and have the software create an instrument based on the melody.

The company also noted that AI content produced using these tools will be watermarked for detection.

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