Web3 x AI: Shaping the Future of the Music Industry

Who We Are

Nvak Collective is a next-generation record label and artist advocacy collective that fully embraces web3 to uplift creators. We believe that the operating system of the music industry is broken, and our mission is to make the music industry more equitable, profitable, and diverse. Our small team has already discovered talent from remote regions around the globe and launched them to billions of streams and hundreds of thousands of fans, all while providing artist-friendly deals and artist care.

Web3 x AI: Shaping the Future of the Music Industry

At the heart of creativity lies a boundless wellspring of imagination, an intangible force that guides us toward originality and authenticity. It’s a process that forces us to tap deeper into ourselves - our passions, our experiences, our perspectives. For the artist, creativity is a sacred space - a place where these deeply personal stories are crafted or transmuted into works of art, a testament to our universal journey through life and reconciling with our deeper sense of humanity. Akin to the nature of blockchain technology, each musical note or lyric represents a unique and immutable block in the chain of their creative output. It’s what makes art so powerful, so transformative, and so enduring. 

The most daunting challenge is often faced when staring at a blank page or canvas. Where the task of translating one’s experiences into a formidable body of work looms heavy. While AI can certainly be used as a launchpad for idea generation, it is ultimately up to the artist to remain true to their own vision and intuition that gives their work its unique character and depth. As one of our artists, Annika Rose, put it best in the lyrics to her “Bruises” track that one could re-interpret to fit into this context: “Baring your soul / That’s where the truth is / At the bottom of it all.” In short, AI is not the death of the artist. It will never replace the touch of human creativity. 

There are many overarching questions that have arisen as a consequence of an anonymous user called Ghostwriter977 uploading an AI-generated fake Drake & The Weeknd track called “Heart On My Sleeve” to Tik Tok in mid-April on a Saturday. By noon on the following Monday, it had reached a staggering 1 million plus streams on this platform. Soon after, Universal Music Group removed the track from Spotify, Youtube, and Tik Tok platforms and issued a copyright claim. UMG had communicated the following excerpt in their official statement, an anecdote for people to consider: 

“which side of history do stakeholders in the music industry want to be on - supporting artists and creative expression, or supporting deep fakes, fraud, and not compensating artists fairly?”

Shockingly, around 60% of music artists already use AI in the creative process (breakdown: songwriting: 11%, production: 20.3%, mastering: 30.6%, artwork: 38%). So why are there people that suddenly take issue with individuals using AI technologies to make music? The underlying reason for people’s instinctive negative response to completely AI-generated content is fair, it’s rooted in a deep-seated concern for meritocracy and the fair recognition of those who deserve it. The development of generative AI music is inevitable, but this must be balanced with a responsible approach that rewards artists justly in conjunction with promoting ethical usage. 

While there are tools like Tune Core that detect AI in music, it’s important to note that most consumers don’t care about how something is built - similar to the sentiment that decentralization isn’t a mass market selling point in web3. Rather, it’s the end product that matters, and how it adds value to the end user's own life in some capacity. It’s clear in the extraordinary number of streams that people found the AI-generated fake Drake track to be ear candy and weren’t aware that it was completely machine-generated at first. Of course, taking steps to make sure AI music is distributed properly should be a principle that is upheld and our excitement about AI shouldn’t influence our decision-making in this. 

It forces us to reframe our thinking around the complex notions of authorship and copyright. Interestingly, the intersection of AI-generated music technology with the web3 music ecosystem has yet to be explored and addressed by major stakeholders in the music industry. It wasn’t long after these events that a crypto-native user cleverly made the move to mint the AI Drake/The Weeknd/Ghostwriter track as an NFT. Given that it is now a unique and irreplaceable digital asset, an immutable record that can’t be altercated by any third party. Blockchain adds a new layer to this when merged with AI in music, almost becoming a counterbalanced match.

At Nvak Collective, we are incredibly fascinated with these different use cases at the intersection of AI, web3, & community, which is empowering artists and fans with tools that allow them to create a more dynamic music industry, fueling new surges of ingenuity and creativity to ultimately push the boundaries and have this vibrant ecosystem. That is why we partnered with an AI music project known as Warpsound.ai recently where we co-released an AI remix track of “Bruises” by our artist Annika Rose and released it exclusively as an NFT to the community. 

Here’s a breakdown of the roadmap and outcomes from this project:

​​→ Warpsound.ai used vocal stems from the original “Bruises” track and fed them into their Nayomi AI music model.

→ The AI model generated a unique and original remix of the track.

→ The resulting remix was released exclusively as an NFT to the Warpsound.ai community. 

→ Over 4,000 copies of the NFT were minted in total.

As alluded to earlier, the convergence of web3 and AI makes for a synergistic partnership. In a way, blockchain technology keeps AI in check. While some of the main concerns in the music industry regarding the misuse of AI-generated content include loss in revenue, copyright issues, and legal/ethical issues, blockchain’s immutable ledger can provide a tamper-proof and decentralized record of the creation, verification, and ownership of this content. Still allowing creators and artists to explore the limitless potential of their craft.

Recent developments with AI x web3 have been fascinating to observe:

The decentralized music streaming platform Audius has already taken steps to ensure that it’s clear to the end-user that the origins of the track they are listening to were churned out from a machine or crafted by a human. By evidently putting labels on these tracks indicating that it was AI-generated. It is becoming increasingly important to establish clear guidelines and standards for its usage to ensure its proper integration into the music industry, and this helps build trust and credibility with people. 

Grammy-award-winning artist RAC is pushing the boundaries of the merging of web3 and AI with his latest project, the Cult Pass, a dynamic blockchain-enabled membership pass that rewards long-term fan engagement with a unique and collectible ‘orb’ image generated by AI that was made possible due to this being executed in partnership with HIFI Labs. It becomes personalized based on the fan’s interactions that change based on your on-chain activity. Making it into a highly coveted digital collectible that represents a connection between the artist and their fans.

An idea that’s been floating around is making music NFT licenses happen for AI music, which would involve a system of individuals uploading their AI-generated music mixes and tagging the original artist. This system can adopt whatever terms the artist has set for their music, such as royalties, and a blocklist, to issue the license for the use of AI-generated music. This approach would allow for AI-generated music to be properly licensed, regulated, and monetized. 

Music artist Grimes has already taken the lead in helping to shape the landscape by launching new AI voice software called “Elf.tech.” She encourages people to make AI remixes of songs using her voice and asks for a 50% split on the master in exchange for a Grimes feature and distribution. It is still in beta but allows people to upload a recording of them singing that will create an output replacing one’s voice with Grimes’ voice. Web3 music company Hume Collective dropped a track called “im fine” from their metastar Angelbaby using this technology, featuring WesGhost and AI vocals from Grimes. It quickly climbed the all-time charts on sound.xyz, ranking #3 and accumulating 5,600 mints total (equivalent to 7.05 ETH). 

Holly Herndon, a renowned music artist, has been leveraging AI and web3 technologies by recently announcing the launch of “Holly+” - a project that is open-source allowing anyone to create their own music by using her voice as a tool. She wants to ensure that all stakeholders are properly compensated in the process and that the origins of these creations can be traced and verified using smart contracts. So, Holly is doing this through her decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) to manage the economic infrastructure and split the royalties fairly.

The most pressing issue in the AI-generated music space right now is addressing the issue of trust relative to the creation and distribution of this. Authenticity is paramount to continue illuminating these bonds of trust between artists, fans, and distributors. Blockchain technology can be the pillar of trust and transparency to enforce and maintain integrity in the music industry. Its distributed ledger can provide an immutable record of all the transactions and activities related to the creation process, making it difficult to tamper with. 

It’s almost important to acknowledge that AI is simply a tool in an artist’s toolkit, it is a means to broadening the canvas and exploring new musical territories. Just as fans crave realness from artists, it’s crucial for artists to stay on the key to remain true to their creative vision. Blockchain is simply the guardian that protects this vision. It is a digital ledger that preserves every note, lyric, and collaboration. It makes music more accessible to everyone given that one can use AI to splatter all kinds of colors and textures to the canvas and blockchain can mint this as a unique tamper-proof digital asset, adding new dimensions. 

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