Artist compensation is a hot-button issue given the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence in the entertainment industry, the tech a major sticking point in labor and union negotiations. While many are concerned that AI is coming to take jobs or launch a thermal nuclear war, however, September Mourning frontwoman Emily Lazar says the fear of AI is overblown, and that the real issue is artists not being paid.

Lazar said events like the AI-generated mashup featuring Drake and The Weeknd that went viral in April were good, for example, the problem was that the artists were not compensated.

"It’s great that they did that song," Lazar told Decrypt in an interview. "But make sure you credit Drake, The Weeknd, and give them their royalties."

Citing copyright infringement, Universal Music Group pulled the song "Heart On My Sleeve" from the streaming sites hosting the AI-created song.


Lazar, who co-founded the heavy metal band September Mourning in 2009, pointed to an April announcement by electro-pop artist Grimes as one solution to using AI to create content while ensuring performers are paid. In a Twitter post, Grimes offered to split 50% of royalties with anyone who used her voice as part of the successful release of an AI-generated song.

"[Grimes] put her voice out there and said, 'Anybody can make a song with my voice, just make sure that you include me in the publishing because that's all I care about,'" Lazar said.

On Tuesday, the Recording Academy reiterated new guidelines that allow AI-generated content in Grammy-nominated songs under specific circumstances. "Only human creators are eligible to be submitted for consideration for, nominated for, or win a Grammy Award," the academy wrote. "A work that contains no human authorship is not eligible in any categories."


Lazar said that music featuring AI technology has been around for many years, pointing to quantizing drums, Celemony Software's Melodyne, and the use of autotune by artists like T-Pain and Cher, credited as the first to use the technology in her 1998 hit, Believe.

“[T-Pain] didn’t need autotune,” she explained. “He used technology to brand himself and his career, and it took off. That's what artists do, we use weird things to make weird things to open people's minds.”

AI might not even all that great as a creative partner.

Lazar said that while writing the song "Grave Digger" for Gala Music, she found herself stuck on a lyric and turned to ChatGPT for help. "It was horrible," she said. "It was really bad."

In June, "Black Mirror" creator Charlie Brooker had a similar experience with ChatGPT. Brooker asked the chatbot to generate an episode of Black Mirror, but the response was less than desirable.

"It comes up with something that, at first glance, reads plausibly, but on second glance, is shit," Brooker told Empire Magazine.

Lazar said that while the chatbot could spit out responses to her query, it had no emotion or nuance. "It didn't understand nuance, and lyrics are born out of nuance," she said. "The best lyrics are very nuanced."

Lazar said ChatGPT did spur her creativity—in that it told her what not to write.


"It gave me a word that I actually wrote the line around," she said. "So I took a word I liked and then created my own line."

Thanks to rapid advances in generative AI, content creators have used the latest generation of AI to create material and launch collaborations "with" artists yet without their participation.

Generative AI is artificial intelligence that can create new content—such as text, images, or music—using prompts.

"In the end, this is evolution—this is going to happen, whether we like it or not," Lazar said. "It's the same thing with the writers strike that's going on, and they're up in arms about AI."

Now in its third month, the Writers Guild of America went on strike in May after negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) fell apart over residuals and the potential use of AI.

"Instead of fighting it, embrace it, and then use it to better your brand, performance, and creative endeavors," she said.

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