The use of AI in music has caused a great divide among musicians, with some dubbing it “catastrophic” and others enthusiastically embracing the technology. For Avenged Sevenfold frontman Matt Sanders (aka M. Shadows), it’s not a question of if AI will gain traction in the music industry, but when.

“Do I think humans are going to care in 20 years if music is written by a person or a robot? No, I do not,” he told Decrypt.

He was dismissive of fans who’ve committed to "supporting the artists and buying records" from human performers in the face of AI. “No, you're not,” he said. “All you care about is how you emotionally feel about something,” he added, arguing that if the listener doesn’t know that AI was involved in writing a piece of music, “you will feel the way humans feel based on this algorithm that it’s keying to.”

“We're not that complex,” he said. “And AI will be able to figure out what makes us tick very quickly.”


Sanders argued that using AI as a tool is not dissimilar to looking up words in a thesaurus, or using Google, “if I’m looking up a word, or trying to figure out a way to describe something.” As a songwriter, he said, “I'm using these sorts of things to utilize tools to make my imagination, and these visualizations of words on paper or music, come to life.”

AI, he said, represents a “deeper tool” that can be trained on a “data aggregate, which is maybe all the songs you’ve ever written, and make something kinda like you.”

In any case, Sanders said, the Pandora’s Box of AI is well and truly open. “It's not really a bubble,” he said. “Bubbles happen when things are very speculative.” In his view, AI is set to play a major role in areas including “the way you drive, the way you interact with the internet, the way you interact with your phone.”

“There's so many ways we could take this conversation,” he noted. “Is it replicating your voice? Is it replicating your songs? Are you using it as a tool to write songs? Do you need it for chord changes?”


Speaking to Decrypt’s gm podcast last year, Sanders suggested that fans could use AI trained on Avenged Sevenfold’s songs to produce their own records, saying that, “I would love to give up my voice to where people can create their own versions of our songs or whatever they feel would be cool.”

In that, he was echoing the view of Canadian electro-pop artist Grimes, who’s already promised a 50% royalty split with fans who create a “successful AI generated song” using her voice.

Others who’ve made use of AI include The Beatles, who used the technology to clean up a John Lennon vocal track for their final song “Now & Then,” and Guns N’ Roses, who turned to AI to animate their latest music video, “The General.”

But not all musicians are as sanguine about the impact of AI on their careers. Earlier this month, 200 musicians including Billie Eilish, Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Pearl Jam, Jon Bon Jovi, and Zayn Malik signed an open letter calling for a halt to “irresponsible” AI.

“This assault on human creativity must be stopped,” the letter from the Artist Rights Alliance said. “We must protect against the predatory use of AI to steal professional artists’ voices and likenesses, violate creator’s rights, and destroy the music ecosystem.”

“Fighting” the encroachment of AI is futile, Sanders argued. “One thing we've seen through the internet, streaming, video games, electric cars, every single piece of the internet that has been invented, we're never able to suppress it,” he said. “So you have to kind of look at it through, like, where is this going? And how can I use it to my advantage?”

For the time being, human creativity still has the edge, though

“I still believe an artist—for now—needs to take us to places we've never been,” Sanders said. “AI doesn't necessarily do that yet. Maybe it will.”


Edited by Andrew Hayward

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