“You have to be defensive and offensive at the same time as a creator”: ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus on the “mind-boggling” potential of AI

“What you’ve heard so far, it’s nothing against what’s coming.”

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ABBA's Bjorn Ulvaeus

Image: Rick Beato via YouTube

ABBA legend Björn Ulvaeus has opined on the “mind-boggling” potential of AI in music, and the need for creators to be both “defensive and offensive” in dealing with the technology.

Speaking to Rick Beato, Ulvaeus admits to being “blown away” by an AI model demonstration he was shown recently by “one of the really big tech companies”.

“The potential of what they showed me was mind-boggling,” he says. “And what you’ve heard so far, it’s nothing against what’s coming.”

Discussing some of the anxieties surrounding the technology, Ulvaeus argues that one has to be “defensive and offensive at the same time as a creator.”

“[AI] is a fantastic tool, it will be the most fantastic co-writer you will ever have. But on the other hand, these AI models will be training on music that people have written, right? I don’t know if it’s too late, but certainly, we have to fight for the writers of that music so they get remunerated in some form or other.”

“I don’t know if [artists] will be able to opt-out if they don’t want [AI] to be trained on [their music],” he says. “But I suspect that it’s going to be very difficult to prove whether a model is trained on ABBA music or not… From what I heard [during] that demonstration, if you ask it to write an ABBA-like melody, you would never be able to recognise that. You’ll never be able to hear that it [came] from Benny and me, if it’s sung by someone else, which in this case it was.

“And then, it’ll be so difficult to trace. Hopefully, these big companies will be good guys. And I think some of them want to be on the side of the creators, rather than against [them].”

The use of AI to aid (or even replace) human creators in music-making has been a topic of fierce debate lately. Paul McCartney, for one, has jumped on the artificial intelligence bandwagon, revealing earlier this year that AI has been used to extract John Lennon’s voice from old audio, and strip it from its instrumental background to help create “the final Beatles record”.

Amidst confusion and speculation about the song’s origins, the bassist then made a statement saying that despite the use of AI, the song had not been “artificially created.”

“Seems to be a lot of guess work out there,” he said. “Can’t say too much at this stage but to be clear, nothing has been artificially or synthetically created. It’s all real and we all play on it. We cleaned up some existing recordings – a process which has gone on for years”

Elsewhere, will.i.am recently made comments which echo Ulvaeus’s about the future of AI in music. He said: “Are you using this tool to make songs? You know it’s gonna make better songs than you. It’s Pac-Man right now, we ain’t even got to Halo. We’re in freakin’ Super Mario Bros., we ain’t even got to Call of Duty yet. This thing’s gonna make better songs than you soon.”


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