Having clicked on the link to read this story because of its weird title, you are now several lines in and probably still confused as to what this is all about so I’ll flip the light switch for you much faster than the press release, which remained confusing throughout – A.I.Bum is supposed to be a sort of portmanteau of A. I. Album, as in, Artificial Intelligence Album.
I don’t know why Bacardi’s marketing department believe the ‘I’ in Intelligence and the ‘L’ in Album are interchangeable, but I honestly can’t think of a way to pronounce A.I.Bum that doesn’t make it sound like a robot’s arse. AayeIeyebum? Are you supposed to say the full stops?
Anyway, the incomprehensible name actually suits the project quite well, as essentially A.I.Bum is an EP (not even an album) that will be produced by a ‘generative music A.I’ that has been ‘trained’ by ‘listening’ to the unreleased (rubbish) catalog of a Grammy-winning producer whose name is a random collection of letters, numbers, and symbols.
If you are sensing a greater than usual usage of sarcastic apostrophes and snark in this story, that impression would be accurate because this sort of thing makes me angry. The opening line of the Bacardi’s press release reads thus:
“Continuing its mission to support emerging talent, BACARDÍ and Grammy Award-winning producer Boi-1da are once again partnering to launch this year’s evolution of the longstanding ‘Music Liberates Music’ program: The Concept A.I.bum.”
Being up to my neck in the independent music production scene, I can tell you indy musicians need a lot of things from big brands, but A.I isn’t one of them. Most independent musicians and artists are watching the development of music-making A.I with at least some level of despair, because it is an absolute, nailed-on certainty that once it gets a bit better, big brands, movie studios, advertising agencies, and video game producers, will all start using it to soundtrack their products, as an A.I. subscription will be cheaper that paying a human artist, and will come with less copyright ownership ‘headaches’ (for headache read ‘paying people for things they’ve made’).
Bacardi’s A.I.Bum project is getting a lot of things wrong if it want’s to support up-and-coming musicians and producers:
For a start, I would imagine a quite considerable amount of money will be flowing into this project, along with quite a bit of marketing exposure, and while it states that five ‘new talents’ will get to work with the A.I to contribute to the EP, it seems to me that Boi-1da, who is already an established artist, will be the main beneficiary.
Secondly, I don’t know if Bacardi have listened to any music that’s been ‘created’ by generative A.I. but I have, lots of it, and I am confident this project will have one of two outcomes – the music will indeed be produced by the A.I, and will be awful. Or, they’ll pretend the A.I did it, but really a human will make it, and it’ll be ok.
Third, and this is something that every brand gets wrong, is that the one thing independent artists need is visibility, or access to an audience. In the social media and algorithm-driven streaming age, the only way a musician can build their career is by getting heard by lots of potential fans. If a brand wants to truly help young or otherwise unknown musicians, forget the part where you sign up and pay a big star to be part of the campaign. Instead, put that budget into learning about the music producer community you want to help, and find those unknown artists who are plugging away, making amazing music with no audience or fanfare, and stick them on your multi-million-follower Instagram page. This is the sort of thing that can change a musician’s life, not a buzzword bullshit A.I album.
But, all that said, thanks for the press release, Bacardi. I never thought I’d have a reason to put Bender’s backside on the front page.