Since ChatGPT and similar tools became widely available in late 2022, artificial intelligence has been on everyone’s lips. But actually, the technology, or rather the technologies, have existed for generations. The development of digital tools that can help people has been going on for a long time behind the scenes, where they automate processes and tasks in hospitals, in the transport sector and in mobile phones and PCs, just to mention a few areas. But it is only now that there has been an awareness and a debate in the wider population about the many possibilities and the corresponding dangers.

In the area of music, producers have also been using AI in their work for years, not least in the film and computer game industry. As technology continues to evolve, educators and institutions will have the opportunity to use AI to enhance teaching methodologies and provide personalised learning experiences. However, amidst this wave of innovation, ethical considerations need to be made, prompting a closer examination of the responsible use of AI in higher music education.

The European Commission’s Artificial Intelligence Act, adopted on 13 March 2024 to regulate AI systems’ development and deployment, provides valuable insights into navigating the ethical landscape. One of the Act’s main objectives is to ensure AI systems’ compliance with fundamental rights, including privacy, non-discrimination, and safety.

Despite the many fine words and intentions, it is only when the legislation is passed by all member states that the AI Act becomes effective. And even then, we need to ensure its function and relevance. One element of the legislative package is that the use of AI must be declared, i.e. that we must all be able to see when AI is in use. It is commendable, but there is already an AI arms race going on between technologies that create new content and the technologies that must be able to identify, when AI is used and ensure correct declaration.

This is a serious challenge for all creators of music, and together with our colleagues in the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance and other partner organisations the AEC will continue to advocate for transparency and fair remuneration for artists.

Is AI  the beginning of the end of creative music making? Let us stop for a moment and try to go behind the scenes: Even if some parts of the technology is called “generative” it still only works with the input given by humans, and maybe we should use this fact to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask exactly what it is that makes us human?

Music and the arts have the ability to let us see ourselves as human beings. Therefore, we need to embrace AI in the Higher Music Education Area, make the technologies our own and consciously develop the aspects and the characteristics of the way technology supports music creation ensuring that there will always be space for a human approach.

AEC will – including through the work of its ARTEMIS Digitisation Working Group – continue to explore the many aspects of AI and raise awareness of topics such as understanding the potentials, data-driven decision-making, change of working practices and working cultures, capacity building and impact on institutional strategy. Keep an eye out for articles in upcoming newsletters.