Either the great copyright battle pitting the record industry against generative artificial intelligence has begun or someone’s clout-chasing AI headlines.
The generative AI music hype train only needed about 48 hours to go from “oh, that’s interesting” to full Balenciaga pope territory, and while it’s clear someone is using the technology to run a scheme, we’re still not sure who it is.
Here’s the short version:
- Someone made an AI-generated Drake voice rapping Ice Spice, to which Drake posts on Instagram, “This is the final straw AI.”
- The same weekend, an unknown TikTok user, @ghostwriter977, goes viral for an AI-generated Drake song featuring The Weeknd. The lyrics are apparently Ghostwriter’s, but the voices are unmistakable. There’s also a Metro Boomin tag in the song, though, as far as we know, he didn’t produce it. Nobody knows who Ghostwriter is, but the song, “Heart on My Sleeve,” racks up millions of views and streams.
- “Heart on My Sleeve” is just starting to gain momentum when it disappears from Spotify and Apple Music Monday evening. Ghostwriter starts deleting TikTok videos, including their most viral posts, but the track remains on TikTok.
- Ghostwriter has been pushing listeners toward a link asking for a phone number to “send you the Drake AI song, and a new link if they take it down.” Nobody knows what the deal is with the company, but it’s crypto-adjacent and specializes in mass texting.
- The original YouTube link is taken down with a message reading, “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Universal Music Group” left in its place.
- The real Drake, who was just posting angrily about the AI Drake covering Ice Spice, says nothing.
Ghostwriter’s come-up is strange even for viral TikTok standards. “Heart on My Sleeve” could be a flukyviral hit, a sloppy stunt by a crypto-adjacent startup, a revenge prank by Drake himself, or the beginning of the legal battle over AI-generated work that is flooding the internet. Maybe a combination. Whatever it is, something weird is going on.
So who created it, and why? Let’s run down the suspects.
Drake or Universal Music Group. The style-hopping artist has maintained his profile by always being on top of the latest trends that are bubbling up, and nothing has been hotter in the last couple of months than AI.
The easiest way for someone to make an “artificial intelligence” version of Drake is to be Drake — it wouldn’t take a lot of algorithmic tuning to make this one work. We asked Universal about the situation, and their response was… curious, to say the least.
James Murtagh-Hopkins, senior vice president of communications at Universal Music Group, said:
UMG’s success has been, in part, due to embracing new technology and putting it to work for our artists–as we have been doing with our own innovation around AI for some time already. With that said, however, the training of generative AI using our artists’ music (which represents both a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law) as well as the availability of infringing content created with generative AI on DSPs, begs the question as to which side of history all stakeholders in the music ecosystem want to be on: the side of artists, fans and human creative expression, or on the side of deep fakes, fraud and denying artists their due compensation.
These instances demonstrate why platforms have a fundamental legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists. We’re encouraged by the engagement of our platform partners on these issues–as they recognize they need to be part of the solution.
If you understand what that means, then you’re way ahead of us. Stranger still, when we asked why the streams were taken down, Universal was able to send us a link to a freshly reposted version of the song with just 41 views. It’s almost like they know who posted it.
Ghostwriter977. An industry wannabe of some sort who just wants to be recognized for their ability to write and perform music that sounds like it could be from some of the most popular artists alive. In a TikTok video showing an iPhone screen recording, Ghostwriter happens to get a text from “rob (attorney)” reading, “Offer in from republic,” presumably the record label. Sure.
Crypto / AI hustle spam. The least satisfying and yet still plausible explanation is that the “viral” song and all of the attention paid to it is all created to hype up the link in Ghostwriter’s bio. The person or people behind this stunt chose to highlight Laylo, a promotional service that’s supposed to notify an artist’s fans whenever they release new music, go on tour, etc.
Such a small service is an odd choice if the source is a big label trying to drum up hype or an independent creator trying to make it big. But if you’re a crypto-adjacent mass-texting startup trying to generate some new leads, then all of these other moves start to make more sense. If interest in NFTs is dipping, then just add AI and wait for some attention to find you.