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AI comes for the DJ: London partygoers rave to robot beats

By Vin Shahrestani

LONDON (Reuters) - In front of an empty DJ booth at an East London nightclub, partygoers danced to AI-generated beats in a unique experimental rave that sought to test whether an app can match the vibe of real-life records and a mixer.

Artificial intelligence has been touted as a great disruptor in recent months. ChatGPT, a text-based chatbot developed by OpenAI that can draft prose, poetry or even computer code on command, has gained widespread attention in Silicon Valley, spurring investors to pour money into AI-focused startups.

On Feb. 17, AI came for the DJ.

"Algorhythm" - hosted in The Glove That Fits bar – was billed as one of the first of its kind by its promoter George Pinnegar.

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"If we can have AI make beautiful music and we can play that to each other, I think that's probably why it's there. That’s why it's a gift," Pinnegar told Reuters.

Powering the night’s pulsating techno and rhythmic drumbeat was Mubert, the app created by a team of Ukrainian and Russian developers.

Mubert uses human-made loops and samples to generate brand-new tracks. Users can like or dislike the app's generative music, and the app adapts accordingly.

Musicians who created the samples then get a cut when their sounds are used.

For Mubert’s CEO, Paul Zgordan, the rise of AI will inevitably result in some musicians losing jobs.

"We want to save musicians' jobs, but in our own way," Zgordan told Reuters via videolink from the Armenian capital Yerevan.

"We want to give them this opportunity to earn money with the AI. We want to give people new (jobs),” the 35-year-old executive, who is also a DJ and musician, said.

PRETTY GOOD JOB

The DJ booth, usually the focus of parties, was left empty as an experiment to see how revellers would react to the AI DJ.

A few hours into the night, some of the revellers had made up their minds.

"It could be more complex," said Rose Cuthbertson, a 24-year-old AI master's student. "It doesn't have that knowledge of maybe other electronic genres that could make the music more interesting. But it's still fun to dance to."

Taking a break from dancing, Pietro Capece Galeota was more complimentary.

"It's been doing a pretty good job so far," the 26-year-old computer programmer said outside the venue.

Yet for Zgordan, there's more work to be done if Mubert wants to have similar functionalities to ChatGPT.

"There is no ChatGPT for music because music is more complex," he said. "For now technology is not ready."

(Reporting by Vin Shahrestani; Editing by William James and Angus MacSwan)