Updated: Dec 13, 2022
There were only a handful of producers focused on sending out samples only a couple of years ago, but just in the last 5 years with the advent of Splice, Arcade, and an abundance of really great tutorials, you could pretty much speed run a music production career.
These new tools lowered the barrier of entry into the music world and helped saturate the market. I think the advent of music AI tools will create a similar dynamic and it's crucial for music producers to adapt.
Your technical abilities will not matter in a couple of years
If we look at how much production changed from 3-4 years ago. Splice offers HQ royalty free sample packs and is installed on every major studio computer I’ve been to. There are multi-platinum producers doing in depths tutorials of their biggest songs. More plugins with amazing sounds right out the gate are coming out every day (there goes your sound design skills). There are tons of plugins with chord generators (there goes your music theory knowledge).
The barrier of entry to music production gets lowered with every new tool we add. As a result, the sample game has become highly saturated, with many talented and ambitious producers vying for the same opportunities.
All of the skills that gave us a place in this eco-system (musical knowledge and sound design skills) is becoming so accessible that being able to make outstanding samples is no longer a unique, value-adding skill of a select few. 14 year olds with 6 months of experience could make Drum Broker worthy samples at this point.
Sending out Loops has always been like playing the lottery but the chances of a winning ticket are decreasing with every passing day. In this environment, it's already becoming increasingly difficult to stand out and get noticed based on technical skills alone, but the advent of AI will supercharge this dynamic further.
Focus on building skills that AI can't replicate
In my top 5 most used plugins are Soothe (by OEK Sound) and the God Particle (by Cradle) both of which use AI in some capacities to speed up tedious mixing tasks that usually take a lot of skill and time to get right.
When people send me samples that don't have a B-part that I would need for a verse part i'm regularly using piano scribe (a free website using neural networks trained for polyphonic transcription by the engineers of google) to figure out the chords and add a new part myself.
I was in a session last week where one of Germany's biggest artist picked a beat with a sample that was generated by clicking 3 notes on an advanced sound generator. I was not able to tell that the sample was made by a machine because it had so much depths.
As AI technology continues to advance, many skills that were previously considered unique and valuable in the music production industry are becoming more widely accessible. This includes things like sound design, engineering, and composition. We're only at the beginning of this new era but AI tools are already incredibly powerful and they will become even more powerful in the future.
In order to succeed in this changing landscape, it's important for producers to focus on skills that are more difficult for AI to replicate, such as social skills and taste. Being in the room with artists, pushing them to do their best work, and maintaining a positive vibe during long sessions can be crucial for getting placements and making a living as a producer. In the future, producers who can demonstrate these skills and build strong relationships with artists and industry professionals will be more likely to succeed than those who rely solely on their technical abilities.
How to succeed in the AI music production world
I fully realized this trend a couple of months ago and immediately stopped sending out samples. Instead of focusing all of my studio to create loops to send out, I focused on going to sessions.
This way I no longer compete in an oversaturated, skill-based environment that is about to be taken over by AI anytime soon anyway. Rather, I'm already building my network, so that when the day comes that AI can generate Kingsway-quality samples, I still have work. I would recommend you do the same. Get out your bedroom and really connect on a human level with you peers, so that your value add is not merely technical.
Trying to end on a positive note, i think that the role of the producer in the AI world will likely look a lot like classical producers such as Rick Rubin or Quincy Jones. We will likely use AI generated ideas to build on, but rather focus on big picture ideas (do we need guitars on the verse? do we start with the chorus or the verse? etc.). We can really focus on creating the art that we want to see in the world without being limited by the computing powers of our brains.