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Martin Guttridge-Hewitt
11 May 2023, 14:09

Fake, AI-generated Frank Ocean songs sold for thousands by scammer

The sales brought in $13,000 

Frank Ocean fake AI music
Andras Ladocsi

A number of fake, AI-generated songs credited to Frank Ocean have sold online for thousands, raising more concerns about the impact of artificial intelligence on the music industry. 

Vice's Motherboard first broke the news with a report into the fraud, which took place on a Discord forum packed with fans of the iconic but reclusive R&B singer-songwriter. A user known as mourningassassin 'leaked' snippets of the counterfeit music knowing the platform was popular with people looking to buy unreleased work from the star who hasn't put an album out since 2016's 'Blonde', although details of his long-awaited third studio LP have been emerging for several years

According to reports, each imitation tune was priced between $3,000 and $4,000 Canadian Dollars, with the scammer bringing in $13,000 overall before moderators ascertained that "just about everything [mourningassassin] has is fake". However, the accountholder behind the deception has claimed one of the songs is genuine, which they used to build trust among other users before fakes were put up for grabs. This has not been verified at the time of writing. 

The situation reinforces rapidly growing fears over the difficulty of determining whether creative work was made by a human, or machine, even among die-hard fans of well-known artists, and the damage this could have on credibility, revenue, and communities. It's also worth noting the act of leaking tracks online can also prove highly problematic, and represents a black market that has long been fraught with issues for artists and listeners alike.

Revisit DJ Mag's 2021 feature series on the potential impact of AI on the music industry at large here, here and here

Last month, Ocean was due to headline Coachella on both weekends, marking his first concerts in almost six years. The event was marred by disappointment, with a planned live stream cancelled on the first date, at which the star was around one hour late to perform. He then called off the second set amid reports of an injury. Skrillex, Fred Again.. and Four Tet were drafted as last minute replacements.