According to Bloomberg, YouTube is building an AI tool that would let video creators record audio using the voice of a famous musician. Supposedly, this tool was supposed to be part of the new suite of YouTube Create tools, which launched in September 2023, but digital rights weren’t yet secured.
Discussions between recording labels and Alphabet are still in the works. YouTube also recently announced that it is partnering with the music industry on AI technology to try and establish principles on using it responsibly while also “helping artists and creators make money.” But when all the dust settles, we could have a way to sing like Drake while all the companies involved make a ton of money. Any guesses where that money comes from? You.
Android & Chill
One of the web’s longest-running tech columns, Android & Chill is your Saturday discussion of Android, Google, and all things tech.
You can pay for YouTube, and it may be worth it if you hate ads, but that’s not the type of payment I’m talking about. I mean the money that doesn’t start out as money and comes from our eyeballs.
In case you didn’t know it, you are Google’s (and almost every other company’s) cash cow. The more you use Google’s services, the more data Google collects. The more relevant ads Google can sell, and Google’s bank account gets bigger. In return, we get… this.
Most of us continue to use Google’s products because we like this business arrangement. We think Gmail is the best free email provider or that Google Photos is the best online space to store our pictures because Google’s behind-the-scenes AI works. Either we don’t care about how Google monetizes our data, or we’re okay with it because of what we get in return.
There’s nothing wrong with this. Even with Google allegedly gearing up to release something silly, like using AI to sound like some famous singer, Google still gives us mostly what we will enjoy using. AI, though, will shape the future of technology in ways nobody ever thought of.
AI as a creative tool is a real thing. It’s also one of those slippery slopes because you can’t just use someone’s likeness or copy their work without paying them. What an artist sees as an important tool that helps them create something wonderful, other people will see as a way to cut corners or make mischief.
Legalities aside, Drake presumably doesn’t want people to hear his voice singing something horrible. No singer would, at least any that aren’t horrible people to start with. You can bet that once this tool goes live, someone will do it, though. AI has no sense of right or wrong.
This is something Google needs to figure out, and if this really is something the company plans to release, then it most likely is trying to figure it out. Google is really good at using AI to enhance the things it’s already doing or to develop useful tools that consumers ask for. The Pixel 8 Pro camera is a perfect example — we want more from our phone’s camera, and Google gave us more.
I’m not convinced this is the right way to start figuring it out, though. It’s going to be super expensive, and that takes away money that could be spent on other, more humanitarian efforts. Google used to remind us that it was working to fight cancer or provide internet for African school children with the money it makes from our eyeballs. In addition to powering the best phones money can buy, Google was trying some important stuff.
There’s nothing wrong with building a goofy, fun AI tool that lets me sound like my favorite singer. I will make stupid videos just like you will if this tool ever sees the light of day and send them to my wife so she can call me an idiot. Having fun is important.
Other things are important, too.