In February, DeepMind unveiled AlphaCode, an AI coding engine it claimed to be capable of writing codes as good as an average human programmer. The announcement came at a time when AI is already being used to improve the efficiency and accuracy of interpreting radiologic studies relative to human radiologists.
Artificial Intelligence is today being used for a lot of things including for creation of music. Imagine your next favourite pop song coming not from Taylor Swift but instead from an AI programmer. AI Song Contest, a global contest, is trying to make it possible.
What is the AI Song Contest?
AI Song Contest is an international creative contest designed for teams from all over the world to try and create a pop song. The contest becomes interesting with its focus on use of artificial intelligence (AI) to create pop songs for each and every creator.
The contest is held online with voting open for the international public in June. The winners will be announced at the beginning of July through an online award ceremony. “All sessions are organised in collaboration with Wallifornia MusicTech,” the organisers mention on the website.
This year’s contest is the third AI Song Contest with the first edition being initiated by Dutch public broadcaster VPRO together with NPO Innovation and NPO 3FM in 2020. The contest shares a close resemblance to that Eurovision contest but the only difference being that the winners are not decided based on their country but instead based their creativity with AI.
The first edition of the contest saw team Uncanny Valley win with their song Beautiful the World. This year’s edition is hosted independently by the AI Song Contest team like the previous year. The contest is sponsored by Sony CSL, Sony Music Entertainment, Sony Music Publishing, Amanotes, Infinite Album, Wallifornia MusicTech, Voiceful, Replicate, and Amsterdam Music Lab.
This year, the contest has seen 46 teams participate from more than 22 countries. “The AI Song Contest is all about collaboration between human and machine: Our teams are encouraged to experiment and mix multiple AI tools (open source and their own) together. With the contest we want to build a bridge between scientists, musicians and the public to explore and start a conversation on how human-AI co-creation can look like and what AI can and cannot do,” says Contest Director Hendrik Vincent Koops, who is also a composer and data scientist.
How does the AI Song Contest decide its winner?
The AI Song Contest has a panel of international experts in music and AI who will evaluate each team based on the quality of their final song overall. The panel will look at how well the team managed to push the boundaries of creative expression. They will also look at the quality of the team’s workflow, collaboration, songwriting process, and how the team responded to diversity, ethical, and cultural considerations.
Out of the 46 participating teams, this international panel will only select the top 15 teams for the public voting process. The final score of each team will be determined based on their score from public voting as well as the scores received by them from a second expert jury evaluation. The organisers say that the weightage for final score will be 50:50 for public voting and jury evaluation.
How is AI used in this contest and challenges?
Artificial Intelligence is a broad technology capable of processing data and offering inference. For the scope of the AI Song Contest, the organisers say they are limiting their participants to using AI techniques machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, algorithmic composition, or rule-based approaches with neural networks.
The participants are expected to use either of these AI methods to compose their song. The teams are allowed to create their own AI tools or they can use an existing model and algorithm.
There is no restriction on who can participate but the contest organisers encourage teams to be diverse and interdisciplinary. AI researchers are also encouraged to join these teams and collaborate with musicians on their project for the AI Song Contest.
In the past years, the teams participating in AI Song Contest have expressed that AI not being easy to decompose has been a major challenge. This challenge pertains to the fact that teams cannot easily tweak individual music components. Another challenge faced by contests is that AI is not always context-aware. This could be related to the music genre.
Another challenge being that AI is not easily steerable, meaning it is not easy to request the music to bear a certain mood or effect. The participants this year will try to overcome these challenges to win the ultimate prize.