AI alternative to Eurovision will ‘shatter disbelief’ around technology

A judge of the AI Song Contest has said he hopes the event inspires more musicians to “embrace” the technology “as a weapon in their arsenal”.

The inaugural event, styled after the Eurovision Song Contest, will see 13 teams from Europe and Australia create three-minute pop songs with the help of artificial intelligence.

It is organised by Dutch public broadcaster VPR and was due to be held alongside this year’s Eurovision in the Netherlands.

However, following that event’s cancellation due to the coronavirus pandemic, the AI Song Contest will go ahead using an online format.

Ed Newton-Rex, judge and founder of London-based AI composition start-up Jukedeck, said the event would “dispel the lingering fear” around the technology.

He told the PA news agency: “There is some disbelief around what AI can do and I hope the competition serves to shatter that and show people that AI can create some pretty impressive things.

“The more the public understands what AI is capable of, the more we are able as a society to make the right decisions about how it should be used. Ignorance is no good thing in this scenario.

“It will be a good thing to raise awareness of the technology and what it will do. I hope it might inspire more musicians to embrace AI as a weapon in their arsenal.

“We hope to dispel the lingering fear around what AI might do. Still, you hear AI and you think Terminator, and showing that it doesn’t need to be terrifying is important.

“It doesn’t need to replace musicians. It can instead be a tool. We would be pleased if that was the message people came away with.”

Contestants were tasked with producing a song as successful as last year’s Eurovision winner, Arcade by Duncan Laurence, but were allowed to choose how much their song relied on AI.

Newton-Rex added: “What we are interested in with this competition is AI being used as a tool by musicians to collaborate with.

“In my mind, that is a much more healthy way of looking at what AI can do.

“Since music began we have used tools to make music. Since the first flutes and drums found in prehistoric caves. Today we use our computers. We use Logic Pro or Ableton.

“We use synthesisers, we use electric instruments, we use the tools – and AI can be a tool in the same way.

“That’s what we really wanted to explore with the competition. How can we open up this technology? And how creative can people be?”

The songs are available to hear from April 10 and the winner will be announced on May 12.

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