How many songs have become hits after going viral on TikTok? At this stage, it’s impossible to count, whether it be songs responding to a trend or our very own perfectly choreographed dance. With this in mind, TikTok making its own AI song generator feels kind of inevitable. Dystopian, sure, but inevitable.
This week, TikTok’s new ‘AI Song’ feature became available to a small number of users, some of whom are taking to the app to show others how the feature works. Like musician Jonah Cruzmano, who made a video for his 19,100 followers showing how AI Song can use text prompts like “going to concerts” or “cuddling with pets” to start generating your own bespoke tune.
With a little help from the AI language model Bloom, AI Song will then generate lyrics and set the tune to one of three pre-existing genres: EDM, pop, and hip-hop.
“It’s not technically an AI song generator — the name is likely to change, and it is currently in testing at the moment,” Barney Hooper, spokesperson for TikTok told The Verge. “Any music used is from a pre-saved catalog created within the business. In essence, it pairs the lyrics with the pre-saved music, based on three genres: pop, hip-hop, and EDM.”
The result of this is some pretty quirky songs (my personal favorite is “Wipe me please mummy“), but as fun as this new feature is, it still raises some concerning questions.
Namely, what is this “pre-saved catalog” of music? It’s a vague way of describing things, to say the least. I guess we can assume that the music that makes up the catalog is royalty-free or created by musicians hired by TikTok, but do we really know that for sure? And even if so, will TikTok always use in-house musicians to train the AI? That’s where stuff really starts to get thorny. (TikTok did not return our request for comment via email.)
The truth is, we don’t know what music or lyrics TikTok is using to build their AI music app. We don’t know whether the creators of the tunes or language making up this catalog gave their permission, and even if they did, what is the copyright precedent for that?
Technically, according to its terms of service, TikTok can use whatever content you post on the app in whatever way it wants — so that likely includes the ability to use your content to train AI.
“By submitting User Content via the Services, you hereby grant us an unconditional irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, fully transferable, perpetual worldwide licence to use, modify, adapt, reproduce, make derivative works of, publish and/or transmit, and/or distribute and to authorise other users of the Services and other third-parties to view, access, use, download, modify, adapt, reproduce, make derivative works of, publish and/or transmit your User Content in any format and on any platform,” TikTok’s terms state.
And further reflecting on these terms, if an AI-built song goes viral, does it belong to you or TikTok? Considering the terms, TikTok probably technically would be the owner. But that doesn’t really seem fair when the creator is the one who inputs original ideas for funny or unique songs that might pick up viral traction. Without them, the song wouldn’t exist.
This feature is still in its early stages, so there’s plenty of time for TikTok to iron out these creases. We just hope everyone can clearly see the writing credits.