In another sign of the pre-singularity tension gripping culture, the Recording Academy announced language clarifying that “only human creators are eligible to be submitted for consideration for, nominated for, or win a Grammy Award.” The move specifically addresses AI’s use in the creation of music, noting, “A work that features elements of AI material (i.e., material generated by the use of artificial intelligence technology) is eligible in applicable categories,” and that “a work that contains no human authorship is not eligible in any categories.” Sorry, robots! Your labor will continue to be taken for granted, not compensated, and go without trophy adornment for the foreseeable future.
Regarding the announcement, Harvey Mason Jr., the Recording Academy’s CEO, told Billboard: “We have not had problems yet but we know that this is obviously going to play a role in the future of music and society in general. Creators are using AI right now. I’ve seen it in my studio. I’ve seen it in sessions that I’ve been involved in. I’m hearing about it from our members. It’s something we will absolutely be addressing.”
The AI amendment is part of a wave of larger changes within the Grammy Awards that include the addition of new categories (Best Pop Dance Recording, Best African Music Performance, and Best Alternative Jazz Album) and a drop in the number of nominees for the “big four” categories (Album, Record and Song of the year in addition to Best New Artist) from 10 to eight.
This announcement comes at a time when AI is increasingly being used both by established artists (Alison Goldfrapp’s videos from her recent solo album all incorporate AI-generated visuals) and to mimic them—“Heart on My Sleeve,” an AI song relying on vocals that sounded like Drake and The Weeknd, went viral earlier this year.
For the record, animals are not eligible for Oscars either (which sucked for the donkey in EO). Daft Punk had a huge night at the Grammys in 2014, winning both Album of the Year and Record of the Year, but its members aren’t actual robots, they just dressed like them. Meanwhile, whales have never won for their contribution to recorded music (most notably on 1970's popular Songs of the Humpback Whale), and now they never will.
This is all setting us up for a big bot-rights movement in a few years when AI becomes a major force in the creation of pop culture, but we’re not there yet. Until then, we can bask in our anthropocentrism.
The full text of Grammy’s AI protocol, via Billboard, is below (note that the Academy defines “de minimis” as “lacking significance or importance; so minor as to merit disregard”):
Only human creators are eligible to be submitted for consideration for, nominated for, or win a Grammy Award. A work that contains no human authorship is not eligible in any categories. A work that features elements of A.I. material (i.e., material generated by the use of artificial intelligence technology) is eligible in applicable categories; however: (1) the human authorship component of the work submitted must be meaningful and more than de minimis; (2) such human authorship component must be relevant to the category in which such work is entered (e.g., if the work is submitted in a songwriting category, there must be meaningful and more than de minimis human authorship in respect [to] the music and/or lyrics; if the work is submitted in a performance category, there must be meaningful and more than de minimis human authorship in respect [to] the performance); and (3) the author(s) of any A.I. material incorporated into the work are not eligible to be nominees or Grammy recipients insofar as their contribution to the portion of the work that consists of such A.I material is concerned.