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Sting says songwriters must be ‘vigilant’ and can’t be complacent about AI

Sting and his wife Trudie Styler (Ian West/PA)
Sting and his wife Trudie Styler (Ian West/PA)

British star Sting has said musicians need to be ready for the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), describing it as an “interesting time” for copyrights.

The Police star is set to become the 23rd musician to be honoured with a fellowship from the Ivors Academy, the organisation’s highest honour, during a ceremony at Grosvenor House in London on Thursday.

The 71-year-old said he “loves” the Ivors Academy and was “delighted” to be “granted this wonderful honour”.

He told the PA news agency on the red carpet: “The last time I was here I got a lifetime achievement award which I thought was a bit premature, but the fellowship was obviously beyond lifetime and it sounds a bit like Lord Of The Rings, but I think there are more duties attached to a fellowship.

“The Ivors protect the rights of songwriters – that’s one of the things they do, not just established songwriters like me, but up-and-coming songwriters.

“It is also a major export of Britain, our songwriting, so they need protecting, so I am very proud to be part of this organisation.”

Sting, who will perform the classic track Message In A Bottle at the event, also spoke about challenges facing the music industry.

Ivor Novello Awards 2023
Sting and his wife Trudie Styler arriving for the awards at Grosvenor House (Ian West/PA)

“It is a very interesting time in terms of copyright,” he said, referencing Ed Sheeran’s recent US copyright lawsuit win over his song Thinking Out Loud.

“I wouldn’t be complacent about artificial machine intelligence being able to write music, but the building blocks of music are human capital, so they’re ours and they don’t belong to a machine.

“So we have to be vigilant of what’s happening, it could get very, very strange so we need to be ready.”

He added: “Apparently I am the first person to perform at these events so I hope I don’t mess it up.”

Meanwhile Charli XCX, who is nominated for the visionary award at the Ivors, said “I don’t really care” about the rise of AI in the industry.

The 95th Academy Awards – Vanity Fair Party – Los Angeles
Charli XCX said she isn’t bothered about AI in music (Doug Peters/PA)

The 30-year-old said: “Maybe that is a very uneducated answer, but I haven’t delved super deep into it. I heard an AI-generated song, it was a collaboration between me and Ava Max and it slapped.

“Personally I’m not really bothered, I’m into the idea of me just being global so have robots make songs… I don’t care.”

Fontaines DC guitarist Carlos O’Connell, whose band is nominated for best album, said AI has been “coming for a long time” but he is “optimistic” about the future.

He told PA: “I think this kind of stuff will point out the bullshit. You’ll see something that gets into the charts generated by a computer and you’ll realise that everything in the charts is absolute bullshit, and it’s only the special stuff that doesn’t get there because it’s human, so I’m happy to see a load of commercial producers lose their jobs.”

Scottish composer Patrick Doyle, known for creating the music to films such as Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, Thor and Murder On The Orient Express, also spoke about AI, advising musicians to “keep adapting”.

King Charles III coronation
Patrick Doyle is nominated for Death On The Nile (Ian West/PA)

The 70-year-old told PA: “It is a very fast-changing world. All I can advise is people keep their nose to the grindstone and ear to the ground, just to be aware of what is going on.

“I remember when computers came along, I was terrified of them, but once I got over the terror of them and with the help of younger people, it helped.”

He is nominated for best original film score at the Ivors for Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Death On The Nile.

Doyle said: “I won the award right at the beginning of my career, and this is also my 70th year. It’s another highlight of my career. It’s been a wonderful year for me, I did the Coronation March – I’m still coming down from that helium balloon.”

The Oscar-nominated composer was commissioned for the King’s Coronation March, which was among 12 new compositions for the ceremony which saw Charles and the Camilla crowned at Westminster Abbey earlier this month.

Ivor Novello Awards 2023
Raye arriving for the annual awards (Ian West/PA)

Doyle said: “I was very fortune to be in the Quire area, literally I could almost touch him. It was very surreal, a huge honour, an unbelievable privilege.

“I got a lovely email this morning from Sir Billy Connolly, who’s an old friend of mine – we worked together on a film called Brave – and he was so generous and so nice, he signed his email ‘from my Aye-phone’.

“I’ve known King Charles throughout my career as a professional friend and he’s been very supportive, so to receive that call was unbelievable.”

Meanwhile Raye, who is nominated for best contemporary song and will perform her hit Escapism at the event, said she is “grateful” to be shortlisted.

The 25-year-old told PA: “It is so validating, to be an independent artist and releasing music that I love and believe in and to be recognised with an Ivors nomination, it feels different and so much sweeter than anything I have ever been recognised for. I am very happy.”