You’ve heard of AI art, and AI chatbots like ChatGPT and Bing. Now you can try out AI music, compliments of Google’s MusicLM.
Originally announced in January, MusicLM is now available for you to play with, compliments of what Google calls its AI Test Kitchen. Though you can jump directly to the MusicLM site to try it out, Google may throw up a popup requiring you to sign up for AI Test Kitchen first. You’ll need to provide a Gmail address, and agree that whatever prompts you provide may be reviewed by human members of Google’s team, though anonymized.
Google quietly announced the opening of MusicLM at its Google I/O developer conference, where it also announced a service to protect your email from the dark web, as well as AI improvements to search—which seem to have failed spectacularly, at least initially.
Like our best AI art generators, MusicLM begins with a text prompt: You define the piece of music you want Google to come up with: “a drum and bass funeral dirge,” for example, or “a soft melody, with strings, about walking through a spring meadow.” MusicLM will then generate a music sample trying to match what you provided, about 20 seconds long. Some samples will include “vocals,” though they’re more of the “wawawa” vocals you’d hear in an animated Peanuts cartoon.
What MusicLM will not do is what AI art generators helped sell themselves on: provide an output that’s in the style of another artist. Ask MusicLM to provide a sample “in the style of U2” and you’ll receive an error message: “Oops, can’t generate audio for that.” If you cut out the artist’s name from the prompt, though, MusicLM will proceed.
Is MusicLM accurate? Not entirely, at least to my ears. You’ll sometimes be hard pressed to understand how it interpreted your prompt the way it did. And no, don’t expect weird prompts to generate miraculously coherent music. Heck, don’t expect generic prompts to generate good music, either.
Sometimes, though, MusicLM generates some realistic music—which may not be to the credit of the algorithm, but just how generic some music can sound. “A modern pop-country ballad that you’d hear on top 40 radio”… gives you a melody you’d expect to hear on country radio in the heartland. But Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, and Drake probably have nothing to worry about.
There’s one more angle, too: All of the AI-generated samples can be downloaded, so, yes, you could use AI to generate the backing track to your next hit, “Loving My Tractor in the Cornfields of Your Heart.” For now, you’ll just have to sing your own lyrics.