Music Industry

Music generated by artificial intelligence is coming to the radio sooner than you think

[This was my column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]

Earlier this month, a company called HYBE spent US$32 million to acquire another South Korean company called Supertone. Its main asset is some software that it claims can create “a hyper-realistic and expressive voice that [is not] distinguishable from real humans.”

And it works pretty well. In January 2021, Supertone revealed its Singing Voice Synthesis technology.

The big party trick was to present Kim Kwang-seok, a Korean folk superstar who sold millions of records at home, singing a new brand new song. Pretty cool, considering that he died in 1996.

Using artificial intelligence, Supertone’s SVS tech “learned” about 100 songs by 20 different singers in order to develop a style. Then it learned 10 songs by Kim. Putting everything together, the AI was able to create something that was more than a reasonable facsimile.

Why would HYBE in interested in such technology? Because it’s the company behind some major K-pop acts, including BTS. This past year, the boy band shocked their global fanbase by announcing that they were going to take a break from music. Fair enough, given the insane ride they’ve been on for the last number of years.

This, however, created some serious problems. First, under South Korean law, every member of BTS is now required to complete compulsory military service (they had been exempt under exceptions given to artists and athletes).

This will take BTS out of the spotlight for at least 18 months. And since the seven members are of different ages, the times when they are supposed to start their time in the army will be staggered. BTS could be MIA for years. Not good for an enterprise that has revenues of US$3.6 billion a year.

Might HYBE use Supertone to create new BTS material while the boys are in the army? It appears possible.

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38156 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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