No, Suno won’t be replacing your favorite band, but it still has a lot to offer

Recently, I ran across this article heralding the arrival of Suno, described as the ChatGPT of music, in sweeping terms. We’ve grown calloused—and rightly so—to proclamations about tech platforms that will change everything. Yet the author’s breathless account of Suno’s ability to generate a whole song, both music and lyrics, in an array of styles at a quality that impresses professional musicians piqued my interest.

This kind of positioning does a disservice to new technologies. In the absence of a sober assessment of how an innovation can help us be more productive, it muddies the waters, sparks panic, and feeds the tech hype machine. But in this case, the author isn’t alone in making grand proclamations.

Suno’s mission is “building a future where anyone can make great music. Whether you’re a shower singer or a charting artist, we break barriers between you and the song you dream of making. No instrument needed, just imagination. From your mind to music.” One of Suno’s cofounders envisions turning any music listener into a music creator.

As we’ve written before, democratizing technology doesn’t mean people will know what to do with it. In addition, helping listeners become creators might be solving a problem that doesn’t exist. I like watching movies, but I don’t want to become a filmmaker—even if I had access to a generative AI platform that could create one with a few keystrokes.

How companies can put Suno to work

Ignoring copyright issues for the moment (similar questions have darkened OpenAI’s door), Suno has the potential to help companies, particularly agencies and production houses, in a couple of ways.

Jump-start the creative process

I reached out to my colleague David DeLallo, an expert in AI and the uses of generative AI (and a musician), to get his take on Suno. “I can definitely see this platform being used by agencies and people working in the creator economy,” he said. “Musicians might use it in the same way we use ChatGPT for writing: it’s good for ideas and getting past blank-page syndrome, but a musician would never simply put out an AI-generated song.” If you’re a music producer, instant access to a piece of music in a certain style can enable quick experimentation.

Generate music for video production

Our video director and editor, Mike Russell, has remarked on how much time it takes to find the perfect music for a video—hours spent trawling through royalty-free music platforms to curate options a client might find palatable.

Since Mike edits videos to music, digitally creating a piece with the right contours and builds for the narrative could significantly speed up the process. He noted, “If Suno could produce a 90-second song that makes transitions at specific times based on my instructions, it could give me more time to focus on the edit.” It could also alleviate the challenge of selecting royalty-free music only to find it placed in other videos or commercials (an issue we’ve run across in the past).

Decoding the platform

For a technology platform to create efficiency, users must understand its capabilities and constraints—and how to navigate them. One of the reasons Suno won’t be writing masterpieces based on user prompts is that most casual music listeners don’t have the vocabulary to hear music and describe it in words. A quick quiz: do you know the difference between samba and bossa nova? Bebop and hard bop? Texas swing and the Bakersfield sound? Trap and trance? No shame if you don’t, but do you know who does? Music producers and creators.

That’s why Tyson Ellert, our podcast producer and sound engineer, as well as an accomplished musician, may have the ideal background to unlock Suno’s potential. “I can describe the technical parts of music and also speak the language of the platform,” he said. “Acting as a translator is vital to getting a better outcome.” This translator role is similar to that of data scientists, who can understand the finer points of analytics while being conversant in business strategy.

As with any technology, it’s crucial to understand what good looks like and how a solution can help you get there faster. Speaking of good (or, more accurately, the opposite of good), here’s a ditty Tyson created on Suno using some generic prompts. Listener discretion is advised. It’s a cautionary tale for anyone hoping the current version of Suno is the entire answer. Hope you get your appetite back soon.

As a postscript, some of the biggest names in music—such as Stevie Wonder, Billie Eilish, Nicki Minaj, and Katy Perry—signed an open letter warning against the risks of using AI in music.

Scott Leff

Scott is the founder of LEFF. He’s spent his career helping executives and subject matter experts tell their story in a compelling way. In the process, he’s had the opportunity to work with C-suite executives, politicians, academics, and Olympians, not to mention dozens of talented writers, editors, and designers in the business world. Scott developed the concept of “lean content creation” as a cost-effective way to support comprehensive, integrated communication strategies.