Has elusive R&B artist Frank Ocean finally come out of hiding to release some new music? No, sorry. An anonymous con artist has allegedly made thousands of dollars hocking AI-generated Frank Ocean tracks over Discord.
Vice says that the tracks were thought to be leaked songs from the artist, which were put up for sale on an Internet music collector’s market and Discord. The trickster, who reportedly goes by mourningassasin, allegedly offered users and moderators on Discord the songs in exchange for upwards of $4,000 each. Mourningassassin told the outlet that they made around $13,000 CAD through the sales, and said that at least one of the songs up for sale was actually a real leak from Ocean, and that it was sold in an attempt to boost credibility.
“We determined just about everything he has is fake,” a Discord moderator wrote in a channel-wide announcement, as quoted by Vice.
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Mourningassassin explained to the outlet that they hired a musician to create nine instrumentals that would feature Ocean’s vocals, which were in turn created with AI. The model used to create those vocal tracks was apparently trained with high-quality vocal snippets of the artist’s voice. Mourningassassin began posting snippets of the unreleased songs to a music collector’s forum, allegedly under the guise that they had leaked, and found that people were believing that the tracks were real.
AI is having its moment across all industries, including the music industry. An AI-generated song from Drake and The Weeknd called “Heart on My Sleeve” went viral last month before being pulled from streaming services by the record label Universal Music Group. AI language models, presumably like the one used to generate “Heart on My Sleeve,” learn from large sets of vocal data to match the cadence and tone of the singers they try to emulate. Unfortunately for music labels, that copyright artists’ work to protect their assets, those datasets are easily obtainable on streaming platforms and through purchased or pirated MP3 files.
Around the same time “Heart on My Sleeve” started to blow up, Universal Music Group begged streaming services like Spotify to prevent AI from accessing music data. More recently, Spotify has purged thousands of AI-generated songs from the platform. The problem was not necessarily the songs, but the fact that an AI startup called Boomy was using bot listeners to stream them.
Want to know more about AI, chatbots, and the future of machine learning? Check out our full coverage of artificial intelligence, or browse our guides to The Best Free AI Art Generators, The Best ChatGPT Alternatives, and Everything We Know About OpenAI’s ChatGPT.