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 an Ice Spice track, 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. Again, this was a new account that instantly blew up. Shady!
- “Heart on My Sleeve” is just starting to gain momentum when it disappears from Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services Monday evening, but Universal Music Group will not confirm that it sent takedowns to those services. Ghostwriter may have been taking them down themselves to make it seem like the lawyers were involved.
- Similarly, Ghostwriter starts deleting TikTok videos, including their most viral posts, but the track remains on TikTok.
- Ghostwriter has been pushing listeners toward a page 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 running the page (update: its CEO claims it’s not behind Ghostwriter), 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. Copies of the song are still all over YouTube, though. Ghostwriter uploads another version today; it’s still up as of this writing.
- The real Drake, who was just posting angrily about 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 fluky viral 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, and it’s important to figure out what before racing to make pronouncements about AI and the future of music. (Which, basically everyone is already trying to do.)
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.
While Laylo’s social media account hyped up speculation it was a secret source for the track, in a statement emailed to The Verge, founder and CEO Alec Ellin writes ““While we’re not behind the Ghostwriter account, we’ve watched in amazement as whoever it is has driven industry speculation, excitement and fear wild. By driving users to a Laylo drop and prioritizing owning their audience from the start, Ghostwriter no longer needs other platforms to have a direct line of communication to thousands of fans waiting for the next release.”
Update April 19th, 3:08PM ET: Added statement from Laylo CEO.