Kill the DJ has recently reported about this songwriter from the UK who isolated Taylor Swift's vocals, put them on his song, and the song climbed the UK iTunes charts soon after. Not for long, though. The single has been removed from all the platforms by now, but Ben Hill, a full-time songwriter and producer from Wiltshire, doesn't lose heart. "The song is now available absolutely nowhere in the world. It doesn't matter. It's too late," he says.
Despite calling himself a "global phenomenon," Ben admits that none of his earlier tracks gained that much traction across the UK as his new song "Get Your Head On This," with Taylor Swift singing on that.
Singing with the help of AI, of course. Ben used a tool called LALAL.AI to isolate Swift's vocals and put them in his song, which gained thousands of streams, 21,000 views on YouTube, and placed itself on a 28th position on the UK iTunes chart.
It'd be amazing to have Taylor Swift sing on one of my songs. I like a challenge.
Inspired by The Beatles' new "Now and Then" song and aware of possible legal issues, Ben decided to take a risk. And though some might think he's picked the wrong person for this endeavor, Ben is sure that Taylor Swift was the best candidate to sing on his song.
"Dickie Chappell, one of the guys I hang around with and am a very good friend with, who's also Peter Gabriel’s co-producer, told me in the summer that I needed to check out what Taylor Swift was doing concert-wise. So I've got to check this out, and I was thinking, 'God, not only is it a great show, but also as a songwriter, it'd be amazing to have Taylor Swift sing on one of my songs.' I like a challenge.
"And then, at the end of June, Paul McCartney came out and said, 'We've got a new Beatles song, and John's on it. Well, we've used AI, but it's still John's voice. We just took it off the old tape and separated the piano and his voice,' and I was thinking, 'Well, I could just do that with a Taylor Swift song.' And I used about four, I think: "Renegade," "Snow On The Beach," "Tolerate It"—it was back in the summer. I did this, and using this wonderful technology, LALAL.AI. I separated her voice, put it in Pro Tools, and basically, through the wonders of technology, got it in time and in tune to the melody that I wanted her to sing."
She doesn't know she's on it, but she's on my single. And you never say that Taylor Swift is on your single until it's charted. You wait.
Music industry spends billions on getting AI off their platforms.
The song was climbing charts not for long, though, as now, at the end of November, the track is taken down from YouTube, Apple, Amazon, and iTunes. It was there for nearly a month, but Ben isn't sad about it: "Universal Music have removed it, but it's too late. There's a saying in England, 'They've closed the door on the stable after the horse has run off.' It's probably shorter to say they shut the door after the horse bolted, but that's true. So I don't worry about it not being there anymore, I did it. It's a bit like them closing off Everest after you've got to the top."
So, the only way I got around it was by not saying Taylor Swift is on the song.
Ben told me during our interview that he could send the tapes with the song, so if anyone fancies it, you can ask Ben on his X (formerly Twitter) or Instagram to send you one. "They're £10 each plus VAT," Ben notes.
"The reason you won't upload those songs is because people such as Universal Music and the whole music industry spend billions on basically getting AI off their platforms," Ben says in a telephone interview to Kill the DJ. "So, the only way I got around it was by not saying Taylor Swift is on the song. Otherwise, I would never have got as far as I did."
This isn't surprising since a case akin to this happened to the TikTok creator who made an AI Drake and The Weekend song "Heart on My Sleeve," using the musicians' voices without their permission. After the song hit millions of streams on TikTok, Spotify, and YouTube, it was immediately taken down from all the platforms.
"I only tried once [to re-upload it] on YouTube. And the guy at We Are RGM [distribution company] said, 'You're insane. If you want to try uploading this, it's not going to be up there for five minutes.' So whoever the guy that did Drake is a genius and also a genius for getting around it. I don't know how he did that. If he could phone in and tell me, I would love to know."
(Ghostwriter777, if you're reading this, drop Ben a line. Cheers!)
It seems like Universal Music, which is a label for Taylor Swift, isn't going to take any legal actions against Posse Unit. All they did was remove the song like it's never been there. But, as Ben told Metro UK, he's £250 into his overdraft anyway, so there was a little chance Taylor might have actually sued anything.
"We had an email from Universal Music, and it said this [song] was now off Spotify. It's off iTunes. It's never going to be released again due to copyright infringement. So it's it's gone, it's gone, it's gone. But it's done its job, it's got me out there, you know," Ben shares.
I could do a duet with Elvis. And he couldn't sue me because the last time I checked, he's dead.
Ben obtained Taylor Swift's voice for his song without her permission. But he tried his best to contact Taylor on her Instagram and a firstname.lastname@example.org email (seems legit, doesn't it?) but never got any response back, as repeatedly reported the UK press.
"I think AI is a really positive thing if you want to use people's vocals with permission, such as the Beatles have done with 'Now and Then.' I think it's not the greatest Beatles song in the world, but it's a very important Beatles song because it's kind of showing you the future. If I wanted to do this weekend, I could sit down and I could do a duet with Elvis. And he couldn't sue me because the last time I checked, he's dead."
I think AI is a really positive thing if you want to use people's vocals with permission.
Out of pure frustration, I thought I was going to get a big star to sing on my song.
It was the first time Ben experimented with artificial intelligence for music, but surely not the last.
"Only because I've failed so much in the last two years," Ben explains his reasoning. "I've released 15 singles, thrown so much money at trying to get a record deal, trying to get a song on the radio, and trying to get in playlists on Spotify. And out of pure frustration, I thought, 'Well, I'm going to get a big star to sing on my song and maybe get some press', and I did.
"We've got a really good team at the label and the distribution company I use, called We Are RGM, and they are really hot on publicity and promotion when it comes to iTunes. So we've got a few singles on iTunes before, but not one that's ever really got this much attention. They're the geniuses for doing it.
"[When I first saw it in the charts and press], I was crying so much that my partner thought we'd won EuroMillions, and I had to explain to her quite carefully that we hadn't actually won EuroMillions. I'd just gone in the charts and then, we started getting the press involved because it's a hot topic. What were The Beatles doing? What they did and Paul McCartney's doing—it's a great time to be alive because you never thought you'd see a Beatles song at number one. And they did it using AI."
I just wanted Taylor to sing on my song, you know? She's brilliant.
Taylor Swift is all over the news these days with her new album and the worldwide tour; there isn't a single day without Billboard sharing a story with her name in the headline. But Ben has picked her voice not merely because her name might have drawn the desired attention—he truly admires what Taylor's doing.
"The word on the street is in the music industry, you cannot have a bad word to say about Taylor Swift or say anything bad about Taylor Swift. And really, I'm not saying anything bad about Taylor Swift. I think she's great. I just wanted her to sing on my song, you know? She's brilliant. She's got some fantastic songs. I think she's got a big future. I only did it because I'm a fan, not because of anything bad, but the streams went up and up and up. Streaming was really good after the press. And, of course, now the streaming has gone really bad because no one can actually stream it apart from me here.
"It still sounds good. I stream it once a day to myself."
I could've had Taylor Swift's drums on the song, but it wouldn't have got as much press.
The AI gem Ben used to create this song featuring Taylor Swift's voice is LALAL.AI, an AI-powered stem splitter that can isolate vocals, backtracks, and instruments from any song or video.
"It did a really good job clearing up. Well, not clearing up; her voice is fantastic. I didn't have to do anything to her voice but separate the stems. And if it can do that sort of work on a knackered old Lenovo, it can do it on an Apple Mac. I could have had Taylor Swift's drums on the song, but it wouldn't have got as much press."
I'm like the fox that went out into the woods and got snared.
There are now plenty of YouTube channels and subreddits where people share their AI-made songs. But Ben declares his story with Taylor Swift is among the first ones, when the track climbed high and then got taken down by the industry.
"I think this is one of the first examples of AI being used and quickly being taken down, which kind of proves that the music business is not lying when they say they spend $4 billion on clamping down on it. So I'm like the guinea pig. I'm like the fox that went out into the woods and got snared. If there's any vegetarians reading this, I'm so sorry. It's like I went over the top, so to speak, and I was like the spy in the camp that got caught. But I did it just to see if I could get away with it and to see how tight the AI security is. And it's pretty tight."
The attitude towards AI in the music industry is somewhat controversial. On one hand, it's Grimes and Holly Herndon who foster the technology, and on the other, big guys from the industry pouring funds into the crackdown of AI-generated content from their platforms (unless the AI content is made on their conditions). One of the recent updates to the AI music regulations was the Recording Academy's ruling, stating that AI-made music can be considered for the Grammys as long as it's mostly made by a human artist.
We've asked Ben what he thinks of that, too.
"I think that's bang on the money. I'd be gobsmacked if The Beatles didn't win a Grammy for 'Now and Then' using AI. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the first one to win the award because what they did was use it in the correct way. They didn't steal. If it's separating old voices and using them in the correct way and not trying to recreate John Lennon in a computerized form, if it's actually John Lennon, which it is on that song, then great.
If you do what I do, which is actually Taylor Swift, but you then change her voice into a melody that you've written without permission, then I have to say I would probably won't be going to the Grammys next year."
In a music kind of way, AI is brilliant, but don't do what I did.
Still, Ben recommends other songwriters and sound producers who want to incorporate AI into their music to "go for it" but in the right way.
"In a music kind of way, AI is brilliant. I can see stuff like Led Zeppelin or what The Beatles are doing now, cleaning up old recordings and making them sound absolutely phenomenal. And you know, it will sound like Led Zeppelin are in your bedroom. Don't do what I do. It was just an experiment, and it worked for about a week."