As we (sort of) predicted ahead of Google I/O 2023, Google’s AI’s capabilities have expanded into the world of music, and you can put its talents to use right now – if you’re allowed into the public beta that is.
Google has been working on MusicLM for a while but has only just made it available to regular folks. Much like other generative AI – such as ChatGPT, Dall-E, and the boatload of ChatGPT alternatives out there – MusicLM starts with a written prompt such as “a suspenseful melody with strings for walking through a haunted house” and MusicLM will attempt to compose a piece for you based on what you said.
It can create music with a range of instruments and even vocals – though don’t expect actual words from the AI singers. Instead, the vocals come out as noises that give you a flavor of the tune rather than a complete full-on song.
The AI does have a few other limitations. For one, it’s not overly accurate and the tracks MusicLM creates feel a little generic – though this is a fault we’ve found with pretty much every generative AI; when it’s merely amalgamating music it’s previously heard you can’t expect it to create something unique, nor to understand why the music invokes certain emotions.
For another, the AI won’t produce music based on another artist. So you could ask it for a hip-hop or western track, but not something in the style of Lil Nas X or Taylor Swift. If you try asking for something in the style of an artist you’ll get an error message asking you to provide a different prompt. That said, this would be seen as a positive by many artists rather than a negative of MusicLM.
How to use MusicLM
If those downsides don’t put you off using MusicLM, then here’s what you need to do to access it.
Start by heading to the official MusicLM page and hit the Get Started button you see. If you aren’t already part of Google’s AI Test Kitchen and don’t have access to the new tool you’ll see a pop-up telling you that AI Test Kitchen is being opened up to small groups of testers and that you can join the waitlist to eventually get access.
To sign up hit the “Register your interest” button and you’ll be taken to a short survey where you’re asked to provide details about where you’re from and why you want to join the Test Kitchen. At the end of the survey, if you aren’t signed in already, you’ll need to log in to your Google account to join the waitlist.
If you don’t have a Google account yet you’ll need to make one.
As we said above, once you’ve completed this survey and joined the waitlist you won’t be given instant access to MusicLM. Much like with the Google Bard generative AI, once you’ve signed up you’ll have to wait for Google to grant you the ability to use its new AI service – it’ll let you know via an email.
MusicLM is just the start of AI music, but it's not a direction everyone is happy with – but is it Spotify or Grimes that has the better approach to the trend? Is AI the future of music or a short-lived fad?