ABA Journal

"Musician Dustin Ballard has turned a spare room in his Dallas home into a soundproof studio. Inside are relics from another era: a ukulele, a fiddle, a smattering of 45s and an Edison phonograph. But when he sits down at his PC to make music, he’s immersed in the future.

It’s from this studio that Ballard, a copywriter and creative director, makes artificial intelligence-generated mash-ups for his popular YouTube channel, There I Ruined It, a genre-bending experiment he started when his western swing band was sidelined during the pandemic.

“At first, it was more about taking the video of a live performance or music video and then swapping out the sound. It might be Lady Gaga, but it sounds like polka music. Then it evolved into different things—mash-ups, AI and auto-tuning—and just a variety of ways to ruin music,” he says.

Ballard performs all the instruments on his tracks but uses an AI tool to transform his vocals into those of whatever artist he is spoofing. His efforts have caught the attention of the celebrities who inspired his songs. In May, an incredulous Snoop Dogg could be found on Instagram singing along to Ballard’s AI-generated mash-up of the rapper’s track “Gin and Juice” with the Jungle Book song “The Bare Necessities.”

There has been an explosion of AI-generated music featuring the living or resurrecting the dead—including David Bowie, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison, whose AI incarnations can now be found performing covers of songs by Radiohead, Oasis and Lana Del Rey, respectively.

“Heart on My Sleeve,” a track featuring AI-generated vocals from Drake and the Weeknd was a streaming smash last year after it went viral on YouTube and Spotify. Even famous artists have got in on the action. French DJ and music producer David Guetta caused a stir when he created a song with AI Eminem vocals.

But as artists like Ballard push the limits of parody, fair use, right of publicity, infringement and authorship, there is one overarching question: Is any of this stuff legal?"

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