Friday, July 14, 2023

Impact of AI Creativity in the Perceived Value of Music

An excess of supply and easy access to it reduce the value of an object. What is the exact value of an object? It is essentially a judgement in terms of utility, importance, aesthetics, luxury, or the feeling of importance that its procurement gives to the user. Value is basically a perception of an individual and a subjective quality. Someone may value a signed first edition of a rare book, while for someone else, a plate of well cooked biriyani may be of more value. When many individuals collectively attribute a high value to an object, it attains a brand value. 

Value creation can be done through utility. Mobile phones became more useful by acquiring the functions of watches, cameras, land phones, phone booths, televisions, audio and video players, and many other devices. It has the utility of all this equipment combined in a hand held device. Now, a person who is not particularly interested in photography, and wants a camera just to click some pictures of himself and his loved ones, may think twice before planning to purchase an exclusive camera, because he already has a functional camera in his phone. This mobile phone has ingratiated itself into our lives by becoming more useful. 

Value creation can also be done through exclusivity. Why does a painting done by a talented artist cost you more than the price of his labour, brushes, canvas, and paint? While you buy the painting, you exclude all other human beings on the planet and become the only owner of that artwork. Isn't it a distinction that makes it unique and more valuable? Thousands of prints of the same painting that look visually the same can be made in a moment's time. But it can never possess the value of the original hand drawn one.

When I was a kid, cassatte players were the rage. In India, the best players available were the smuggled ones from the Middle East. Before that, there were record players and gramophones. Music CDs and MP3 discs came later. Now, all music has gone digital and is available via streaming. Accessibility has increased, and it has become easier to produce music.

Imagine a time before all these when the only way to hear music was a live concert, which may happen once a month or so. Artists were exclusive and had more value. When their voice could be reproduced by recording them, music became more accessible, and initially the value of a talented singer rose due to the sudden fame, but gradually reduced. Each innovation made the entry of lesser talented individuals into the scene possible, and real talent was relegated to the corners. The advent of autotune is the prime example. 

The cost of music has also suffered. A single song that used to cost a concert ticket to the consumer in the past, costs only the value of 10 MB of data these days. How does this downfall in margin affect the quality of music? How are the musicians able to compensate for this? All these thoughts ran through my mind after seeing the below headline.

A music platform has created 100 million AI generated music tracks. To give some perspective, it is equal to the entire Spotify collection. This is an interesting development that should make us think about its qualitative and quantitative effects on music the world over. What would be the general perception of the value of music among the public? From an orchestra performing live renditions to a construct producing synthetic music artificially, is this evolution benefiting humanity in any way? I believe it needs to be seriously thought about. 

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