Udio's AI music is my new obsession

Udio home pageImage: Mark Hachman / IDG

I love AI art. My editors yell at me for over-using it. So it’s natural that I would latch onto, a surprisingly capable AI music generator for everything from death metal to female folk rock.

The thing is, I’m not sure how long it will be as great as it is right now. So: Click on it. Start using it. It’s free! For now, anyway.

Udio works like an AI art generator. You can either specify a prompt and let Udio do all the heavy lifting, from music to lyrics, or get as detailed as you want. Did I mention that there are lyrics? And vocals? Yes, Udio will even sing the lyrics for you, in voices that sound incredibly realistic and even emotional. Each “song” is generated as a 30-second clip, but you have the option of extending it with extra time, and even intros and outros. The maximum length of the song is short, though: about 90 seconds, Udio says.

Update April 16, 2024: Udio is a competitor to Suno, OpenAI’s competing service. Suno has a free plan (50 credits or about 10 songs, daily) but Udio is currently 600 free songs per month. A “song” is basically a 30-second track, so if you extend or remix it, you’re burning a song.

A song can be “remixed,” in that you can try an entirely new approach or keep the same lyrics and let Udio’s AI tweak it for you. But there’s an odd quirk, too: at a certain point a song may be too long to “remix” but not too long to extend. It just means that you’ll end up with multiple extended songs as you try and figure out what works. I’m not sure if this is a bug, a feature, or just a quirk of the platform.

Unlike some AI art generators, Udio seems at least vaguely aware of copyright; you can’t ask it to sing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” (or any song, actually) in the vocals of Taylor Swift. But there doesn’t seem to be any prohibition against taking the “My Way” lyrics and writing a drum-and-bass song around them, if you want.

Mark Hachman / IDG

For me, this is meme music: writing a few lyrics (30 seconds equals about 6 to 10 lines) and then setting them to a tune. I’ve been rather shocked at how the algorithm can take a few rather poor lyrics and put them into something that sounds rather catchy. Is that because most popular music sounds manufactured? Probably. As word gets out, you’ll probably hear more people bemoaning the demise of “true art” or something like that.

Each time you make a song, the service generates two versions, presumably so you can decide which direction to take any further edits. (Check out some of the songs I created with Udio in this story.)

Viral Dreams

And no, this isn’t going to cut into Radiohead’s revenue stream, or even undermine the up-and-coming talent that’s trying to break into the music business. If you can play, really play, you have nothing to fear. But Udio is backed by several Google DeepMind veterans, and Rolling Stone alleges that the service was probably trained on copyrighted music. That’s a can of worms that will be opened in the courts, no doubt.

Words Will Die

For right now, Udio’s in beta, and the site is generously offering everything for free, up to 1,200 songs per month. The site doesn’t say what the pricing model will be, or when that will kick in.

But for now, yeah, I’m trolling my kids with Udio. AI has kicked off its music tour.

Dad’s Got It All

This story was updated on April 16 with additional detail. 

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

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