Almost Timely News, July 7, 2024: 🗞️ AI Creates Jobs In the Content Supply Chain

Almost Timely News: 🗞️ AI Creates Jobs In the Content Supply Chain (2024-07-07) :: View in Browser

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Almost Timely News: 🗞️ AI Creates Jobs In the Content Supply Chain (2024-07-07)

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What’s On My Mind: AI Creates Jobs In the Content Supply Chain

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been making a lot of music with the Suno app, combined with the language capabilities of Google Gemini. In last week’s issue, we covered the process of building a priming representation to create a country song about McDonald’s fries which is now available on most major music streaming services.

Sidebar on Copyright

Machine-generated content in most places is not copyrightable (your prompts are), but a lot of folks misunderstand what that means. Now, I’m not a lawyer and I cannot give legal advice; seek out a qualified attorney for legal advice specific to your situation. That said, copyright is about exclusivity and your right to profit from your content. Content that has no copyright can be used by anyone; if you print a t-shirt with the Mona Lisa on it (which is public domain), you absolutely can sell that shirt. What you cannot do is compel someone else to stop selling the exact same shirt, because you have no copyright over the Mona Lisa. So in this example, I’m putting my machine-generated songs up on music services. I’m absolutely allowed to make revenue from them, but I can’t stop anyone else from making a copy of the song and putting it up on their account. That’s what copyright means, broadly.

Back to the Story

This week, let’s talk about what AI content generation means for the future of work and the future of content marketing. As you almost certainly know from your own experiences with generative AI, what comes out of the machines is increasingly good but still needs polish.

A year ago what you got out of generative AI was like a lump of half-shaped clay. You had to work it a lot to get it into the shape of a vase. Today, you get vase-shaped clay out of the machines that requires much less work to get it the way you want to look, but in most cases, you still have a little bit of polishing to do. Tomorrow’s models will probably produce nice vases in raw clay that still need to be fired; I don’t foresee any near-term future where AI content goes straigh to market, untouched.

AI’s Imperfections Create Opportunities

As I listen to the song candidates coming out of a tool like Suno, they’re leagues better than they were even six months ago, but they’re still not perfect. They still require work. For example:

  1. Suno still has auditory hallucinations in about half of the songs I create. These are things like weirdly repeated loops, lyrics that get mangled, or a song that ends and then it thinks it has to keep going. Many of these can be fixed in an audio editor.
  2. Suno’s music comes out unmastered. That means that it comes out sounding very much like computer-generated audio; the different instruments are all kind of blandly mixed together. This can be corrected with audio mastering, but that’s not something the AI knows to do yet.

  3. Suno’s tracks are largely not editable. I’d love at some point for it to produce the vocals track, the drum track, etc. all split apart so that they can be individually edited. If you want to do that now, that’s a ton of extra work with a tool like Spleeter to disassemble the song, and then sew it back together in a tool like Adobe Audition after making whatever changes needed.

  4. Suno doesn’t do any of the other parts of music distribution, like creating coherent cover art, naming your song, loading it up to a distribution service, and then promoting it.

If you do these things, you can take AI’s okay outputs and improve them to pretty okay. They are still not as good as what genuine human musicians can create – for now. As models improve, expect that to change somewhat. Just as ChatGPT made incoherent dreck at its debut, its outputs now are substantially better out of the box, and the same is true for most AI models that are under development.

The Rise of the AI Cover Band?

But there is still a need for humans. In the audio example, there’s a critical gap. Machines will in time develop better outputs, yes, outputs that will require less editing and less mastering, etc. It’s inevitable that, with as much music as people are cranking out with these tools, one of these AI generated songs will eventually be a hit.

What happens when audiences want to hear that live?

Right now, your options are to have a computer play the audio track in public. That’s hardly satisfying. Concerts are a communal event, as much about gathering like-minded people for a shared experience as it is the music itself.

A human cover band could easily take any of these machine-made tracks and perform them live, bands like the Marcel Fisser Band or Hindley Street Country Club that excel at taking existing music and covering it really well. And those folks may well have a cottage industry down the road of taking AI-created hits and performing them live. What’s more, because AI-generated music has no copyright, the bands could do so without the mess of royalties and performing rights.

That’s a distribution challenge with AI content, one that AI isn’t going to solve. As my friend and partner Katie Robbert says frequently, new technology won’t solve old problems, and the desire for a communal music listening experience is an ancient problem.

There is a role for humans even when AI is doing much of the heavy lifting, all along the content supply chain.

AI and the Content Supply Chain

What is the content supply chain? It’s the production of content from ideation to delivery:

  1. Plan the content.
  2. Make the content.
  3. Distribute the content.
  4. Market the content.
  5. Sell the content.
  6. Measure the content.

AI makes some parts far more efficient, and in turn that makes wildly different levels of supply and demand throughout the supply chain. AI can make the content to some degree – the song, the book, the image, the video – but the best creations demand high quality ideas and high quality data. One of the things I say in my keynotes is that your ability to succeed in the age of AI is determined by whoever has the most, best data and whoever has the most, best ideas.

So there’s a high demand for high quality data and high quality ideas at scale. Again, going back to the music example, last week’s song was driven by an annoyance I had about how quickly McDonald’s fries cool down. It made a fun song. Is it going to be a hit? Almost certainly not. It wasn’t a high quality idea, though it was a fun one. But there absolutely is a demand for high quality song ideas.

That’s upstream from the production process, in the planning stage of the content supply chain.

AI obviously is the engine of production in these examples, tackling the first part of stage 2, making the content. But after the machines create the content, then what? That’s where the downstream part of the content supply chain has to deal with the impact of AI.

For example, suppose we now have a glut of AI-generated music. All that music still has to be edited, mastered, and then distributed, marketed, monetized, and measured. The machines can’t do those tasks in a single workflow; you can get some efficiencies here and there, but by and large it’s still a manual, human process. And that means you need people to do those tasks.

When you’ve got a new album from an artist, that’s 10-15 songs that need management and production, and that might occur over the span of a year. Billie Eilish, Beyonce, and Taylor Swift release albums relatively infrequently. When AI is in the mix, you might have a new album a day. Suddenly, you need a lot more people doing the downstream tasks.

The Logjams of AI

This is the key point about AI’s impact on knowledge work. Some parts of any knowledge work process will be handed off to machines in part or in whole, but rarely will the entire process be handed to a machine because it’s so heterogenous and distributed across multiple systems and disciplines. And that means you’ll have logjams at various points in the process, logjams that humans will need to resolve.

For example, my general workflow for making a song goes like this:

  1. Come up with the idea.
  2. Write out the idea in plain text.
  3. Use Google Gemini to turn the text into lyrics.
  4. Use Google Gemini to draft the sound design prompt.
  5. Use Suno to make the song candidates.
  6. Choose a song candidate – usually I make 5-10 of them and choose the best.
  7. Master the song with Python’s Matchering library.
  8. Edit the song in Adobe Audition to clean up Suno’s hallucinations and get it production ready.
  9. Create the cover art with ChatGPT’s image creation module.
  10. Load the song in Amuse and distribute it.

And that just covers the first 3 steps of the content supply chain. We haven’t even touched on marketing, monetization, or measurement.

When we talk about the future of work, this is what we’re talking about. We’re not only talking about new jobs that don’t exist, we’re also talking about the jobs of today that will be changed. Some will diminish. Others will be busier than ever. An AI music hit factory will still need people, processes, and platforms to do the six stages of the content supply chain, and AI can only help so much.

For example, in the workflow above, I could probably automate steps 3 and 4. Step 6 can’t be automated. It’s so subjective that it must remain human. Step 7 is mostly automated. Steps 8-9 are manual. Step 10 is manual now but perhaps one day there will be a platform with a robust API.

You can see that even in this hobbyist example, there are a lot of parts of the content supply chain that AI just can’t help with.

When I look at my own whimsical use of AI to make pretty good music, AI is filling in a strategic gap in the content supply chain – namely, my complete lack of musical talent. I can provide the rest of the supply chain, the ideation, the distribution and marketing. And every content creator out there worried that AI is going to make them obsolete is understandably worried, but as we’ve seen from these hobbyist examples, there’s still so much AI can’t do. Their expert skills in the creation part will lend them an edge in creation that I don’t have. My friend and producer Ruby King often points out when we review tracks where AI just missed the boat, in ways that I don’t know because I don’t have music composition expertise.

A Familiar Disruption

There are strong historical parallels; this sort of disruption has happened many times before. The rise of the printing press created books at a much greater scale than ever before, fundamentally changing how society worked and making knowledge more accessible. The rise of the mass manufactured automobile in the USA created a massive change across the landscape; restaurants, hotels, and roadside tourist attractions all sprung up to take advantage of the new audience and the new demand.

Today, we still see echoes of that disruption even in modern culture. A Michelin-starred chef, one of the highest culinary accolades, stems from the Michelin Guide, a restaurant guidebook put out by the Michelin tire company to stimulate driving demand in Europe back in 1900.

There is no way to accurately predict what work will look like, what content will look like, what society will look like as AI becomes ascendant in the creation of content as part of the overall content supply chain.

What we do know and can rely on are the same basic motivators that won’t change. Companies want to save money, save time, and make money. Consumers want things to be better, faster, and cheaper. If our AI efforts are aligned to these timeless motivations, then using it will deliver meaningful impact.

And looking ahead, as we saw with the automobile creating all sorts of side industries, I wholly expect AI to do the same, from cover bands performing AI hits to music producers cleaning up AI music to developmental editors fixing AI novels to artists cleaning up AI art. AI will dramatically amplify production, which means the rest of the content supply chain will need more people than ever to keep up.

As always, shameless plug, if you want help with scaling your generative AI systems and processes in your supply chain, this is literally what my company does, so if getting started with this use of generative AI is of interest, hit me up.

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ICYMI: In Case You Missed it

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Songs I’ve Made With AI

These are all made with AI. Each link will take you to a landing page where you can choose the major streaming music service of your choice. Enjoy!

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Thank You

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See you next week,

Christopher S. Penn

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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