In an unexpected move that has delighted fans worldwide, The Beatles, over five decades after their legendary breakup, have released a "new" song titled Now and Then. What makes this release particularly intriguing is that it's a product of artificial intelligence (AI), sparking discussions about the future of music and the impact of AI in the industry.
Shortly after John Lennon's tragic passing in 1980, Paul McCartney received a cassette tape labeled "For Paul" from Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono. In 1995 and 1996, the surviving Beatles unveiled two songs from Lennon's cassettes as part of the Anthology project. These tracks, "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love," marked the band's first "new" material in over two decades, achieved with extensive effort due to the limitations of 1990s technology.
Fast forward to the present day, and AI has become a game-changer. "Now and Then," a song initially dismissed by George Harrison, came to life through AI. The technology helped extract Lennon's original vocals from the accompanying piano music. McCartney and Ringo Starr then recorded the backing instruments, with Harrison's existing recordings seamlessly integrated.
AI has been instrumental in restoring The Beatles' music. It was used in Peter Jackson's 2021 documentary series "Get Back" to recognize the band members' voices and separate them from background noise, preserving their musical legacy.
The release of "Now and Then" raises essential questions. Can this AI-driven approach be replicated for other songs by late artists? What opportunities for monetization does it offer? Will we see a wave of posthumous songs on the market, and is there a demand for such music?
AI goes beyond restoration; it allows for pitch adjustments, autotuning, and even the replacement of real voices with synthetic ones. While this offers exciting creative possibilities, it also raises concerns about the role of real musicians in the industry.
The music industry faces new challenges with the rise of AI-generated deep fakes. Artists may contend with copycats and copyright issues on a scale previously unseen, potentially causing confusion for listeners and legal disputes.
Paul McCartney has labeled "Now and Then" as the "last new" Beatles song. This release is set to be lucrative, with new editions of the "red" and "blue" compilation albums and streaming royalties. Given the songwriting prowess of the Beatles, it's not far-fetched to imagine another "last new" track in the future.
The release of "Now and Then" by The Beatles, crafted with the aid of AI, represents a milestone in the music industry. It showcases the creative possibilities that AI unlocks, while also raising complex questions about the boundaries of music creation and the authenticity of artist voices in a digital era.
The collaboration between The Beatles and AI marks a significant moment in music history, inviting us to ponder the ever-evolving relationship between technology and artistic expression.