It might have been a fantasy of Kraftwerk, but automatic songwriting has taken a jump forward with the announcement by Yamaha that they are about to release Vocaloducer. The clunky name is a contraction of “vocal producer”, as this is what the software does.
If I understand this correctly, Vocaloducer will allow users to create vocal lines by supplying lyrics and determining a few parameters in terms of rhythm, chord progression, etc.
Press a button and – hey presto – the songwriting is done for you. Yamaha even promise “lush” melodies.
Does it matter who does the songwriting?
My first reaction – and I’m sure it will be the same with many other songwriters out there – was to think, “Impossible”. This was followed “Outrageous, ridiculous” and a few others. But at the end of the day, does it matter who did the songwriting? The song – the combination of melody and lyrics – will either stand up in front of an audience or it won’t.
Which is better: a pleasant automatic melody line or a painful authored one? In real terms, what is the difference between adapting a public domain melody and running an automated melody. Neither of them have authors we can pin a face on.
Songwriters vs. copyright holders
What you will have is copyright holders rather than songwriters. But it could be argued that much of the electronic dance music out there is already run in quasi-automatic mode. And some dance producers claim co-writing credits on songs that they produce (I’m thinking of Bob Sinclair’s remix of “A far l’amore” – a remix is hardly songwriting in the traditional sense although it’s a handy way to pick up extra rights, apparently).
Yamaha has also been producing the Vocaloid plug-in for Cubase, and you can even get music publishing services for the “user-generated content”.
Who needs automatic songwriting?
So who needs automatic songwriting? I suspect that Yamaha is not intending this for the pop charts. It will be offered on a SaaS (Software as a Service) basis
for application developers. So it will not be downloadable. Yamaha are most likely targeting companies such as YouTube and DailyMotion that will be able to offer automatic music accompaniment to people’s videos.
Knowing human nature, however, I’m sure there will be many more “virtual” singers out there.
I hope Yamaha have the legalities of this sorted out. What are your thoughts on this?