Fake Drake won't be eligible as Junos add AI guidelines to prevent robot takeover
David Friend, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, September 14, 2023 7:01AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 14, 2023 7:01AM EDT
The Juno Awards say a controversial "deep fake" song featuring unauthorized sound-alike vocals of Drake and the Weeknd won't be eligible at next year's celebration of Canadian music.
The organization's president Allan Reid said that newly introduced "AI Eligibility" rules lay out the basics of how artificial intelligence can be used in making songs — and the popular mashup of the two famed Toronto singers doesn't meet the requirements.
"It's 'Drake and the Weeknd' — but that's not them," Reid told The Canadian Press.
"That is not their voices; those are AI-generated voices."
Before submissions for the 2024 Junos open on Monday, leadership has clarified that eligible recordings can use AI, but that it can’t be the “sole or core component” of the project.
Exactly what that means is still up for some interpretation, Reid conceded. He described this as "very much a learning year for us" with the established rules as "a baseline" to work from.
"We want to make sure that we have humans being recognized," he said. "We can't be awarding an AI project a Juno."
The new criteria come as the music industry contends with a fast-evolving technology that’s flooded the internet with “deep fake” songs which use computer-generated voices that mimic the real artists.
“Heart on My Sleeve,” a song created by a U.S. producer who calls himself Ghostwriter, rattled the music industry earlier this year with its convincing performances by fake versions of Drake and the Weeknd.
Its release led record industry giant Universal Music Group, distributor of both Canadian artists, to issue takedown notices to music streamers. They released a statement calling unauthorized AI-made songs "a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law,” while the Grammys recently clarified the song would not be eligible at its awards show.
However, not every case is unauthorized.
More recently, Vancouver-born musician Grimes issued voice-modelling software that allows fans to add her to their music, as long as they split the royalties with her.
Reid says both examples could lead to different outcomes at the Junos.
“Heart on My Sleeve” would’ve never been eligible for the awards, he said, since its creator isn’t Canadian and neither vocalist was involved. The song also wasn't commercially released since it was unauthorized.
Grimes is a somewhat different case, he added. Her vocals are AI-created and therefore not technically real, which means they're not eligible. However, if the human producer who used her voice software is Canadian then the Junos would take "a deeper look" at the case.
Submission forms do not directly ask if AI technology was used in the creation, said Liz Morgante, senior manager of the academy's operations. However, any projects that raise questions will be reviewed by the Junos music advisory committees.
"There's no question AI is going to revolutionize how music is created," Reid added.
"And with the rate that things are changing ... it's hard for us to predict where things will land in the future, which is why we need to take initial steps and learn as this evolves."
The Juno Awards take place March 24, 2024 in Halifax.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2023.