Genius at work: Ray Charles at Radio City Music Hall, New York, July 30, 1993.
(Jack Vartoogian/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Genius at work: Ray Charles at Radio City Music Hall, New York, July 30, 1993.
(Jack Vartoogian/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
Pricing Holograms, Lil Nas X's Viral Formula, Rammstein's Camp, Don Was on Jazz, Megan Thee Stallion...
Matty Karas, curator May 21, 2019
quote of the day
I was like, 'I gotta make it short, I gotta make it catchy, I gotta have quotable lines that people want to use as captions.'
rant n' rave

In the future, when the novelty factor has worn off, will live concerts by holograms and AI-generated entertainers be like movies (playing on hundreds or thousands of screens simultaneously, selling tickets for $15 or $20) or like Broadway shows (one show, one location, can charge whatever Times Square tourists are willing to pay)? Will there be one fake WHITNEY HOUSTON touring from city to city like the real Whitney Houston used to do, or will there be holographic versions of her all over the place? Who will decide and what will be the considerations? Who will be the market? Will the supply drive the demand or will the demand drive the supply? There is, in fact, a Whitney hologram tour in the works, with a live band (her original band, in fact) and backup singers, so we have a pretty good idea how that one might go. Perhaps something in the range of a touring $39 to $99, as CHERIE HU reports a laser-video-projected ROY ORBISON is currently getting. Maybe a little more. But I'm thinking about somewhere down the road where the live band and backup singers are holograms, too, and where there's theoretically nothing preventing them from being cut-and-pasted into a thousand theaters except—except what? The cost of sound and video systems? Whatever human support they'll still inevitably need? Greed? Hu's Roy Orbison figures come from an essay that sets out to ask if AI music is "worth anything," which is partly a hypothetical exercise and partly a reminder that LIL MIQUELA exists and she sings. (Also, she was apparently turned away by major labels a few years ago, which perhaps will be the reason someone gets fired a few years hence by the new AI boss of the A&R department.) I'm not sure Hu's comparison of the music market to that for AI-generated paintings is particularly useful (no one buys records or goes to concerts as a financial investment), but her musings on the fuzzy line between what exactly is human and what exactly is artificial got my attention, as did her thoughts on the differing values of music as a stream and music as a live performance. But will those two concepts be any more different, 10 years down the line, than "television" and "the internet" are now?... How's this for an algorithm for an AI song: Short, catchy, with quotable lines that people will want to use as INSTAGRAM and TWITTER captions. That, it turns out, is the very human algorithm that was going through LIL NAS X's very human head when he wrote "OLD TOWN ROAD." He wrote it, he tells ROLLING STONE's JOSH EELLS, with maximum virality in mind. It wasn't tossed off. The Georgia teenager, who took trumpet lessons when he was a kid and studied computer science in college, bought the beat online for $30 and then spent a month writing and rewriting lyrics. He GOOGLED cowboy terms. He thought about memes. An AI pop song program could do most of that, for better or worse, but not all of it. Almost certainly not this part: Nas was a loner, and the beat he bought had a banjo sample (NINE INCH NAILS, uncleared) that resonated with that part of him: "I was picturing, like, a loner cowboy runaway. Basically what I was going through, but in another lens.” Show me an AI that can do that, and I'll sign it to my major label tomorrow. Also, this is by far the best Lil Nas X profile anyone has done... SONY MUSIC will soon allow artists to see their royalty earnings in real time and "cash out" their balance every month... RIP MELVIN EDMONDS.

Matty Karas, curator

May 21, 2019