“Elevator music or commercial music is where you’ll see people out of jobs”: Bombay Bicycle Club’s lead guitarist on AI

Jamie McColl, who’s also a research fellow in cyber security, says that “quite standardised” music will be the most threatened by AI technology

Jamie MacColl of Bombay Bicycle Club performs at Lowlands Festival 2023

Credit: Getty / Roberto Finizio

Jamie MacColl, lead guitarist for British indie band Bombay Bicycle Club, has spoken out about the potential impact of AI technology on the music industry.

In an interview with The News Movement at Reading Festival, MacColl, also a research fellow in cyber threats and cyber security at the Royal United Services Institute, addresses the possibility of AI taking his job.

“I think I would be worried if I made elevator music or commercial music where it is quite standardised,” he says. “I think that’s the space where you’ll see people being [put] out of jobs.

“In the long term, who knows, maybe it will replace us all,” a bleak MacColl says, “but I think that’s a long way off. The people who will survive in the age of AI are the people who can ask the right questions and use it rather than being replaced by it. That will probably apply to music at some point down the line as well.

“It’s all just about streamlining processes and getting rid of the hard work. Much of what we’ve seen so far is replicating existing music. Those Drake songs or The Weeknd songs I don’t think will take off because major record labels are already so litigious and opposed to any sort of violation of copyright.”

When asked if he’s ever used AI to help him write music, the Bombay Bicycle Club guitarist admits that he did once ask AI to write him lyrics but says he got “a lot of lyrics about riding bikes”.

MacColl’s not wrong on major record labels’ response to AI technology being used to replicate the voices of major artists. In August, Google and Universal Music Group revealed they were in talks over licensing issues that surround ‘deepfake’ AI music.

In June, Deezer launched new technology built to “detect and delete” music made by AI that clones the sound and style of real artists.

Hozier also recently said he would “absolutely” strike against the use of AI in music, in a similar way to how actors are currently striking against the use of AI in the TV and film industry. Will.i.am and Nick Cave have also previously voiced concerns about the technology.

Bombay Bicycle Club’s new album, My Big Day – we think – excludes any AI-generated bike-related lyrics and is out in October. Pre-order via bombaybicycle.club.

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