This week, the world was introduced to the first AI-generated viral hit by a mysterious sheet-wearing producer who goes by Ghostwriter. But just as quickly as “Heart on My Sleeve” took off, it was wiped from Spotify and YouTube after rightsholder Universal Music Group expressed its displeasure.
Ghostwriter used AI to create vocal realistic clips that sound like artists Drake and The Weeknd to create the song, they said on TikTok. The song was introduced on that platform in a video posted over the weekend that quickly gained over 9 million views and inspired thousands of derivative TikToks, and earned hundreds of thousands of plays on Spotify and YouTube by Monday afternoon.
As of Tuesday morning, “Heart on My Sleeve” is no longer available to listen to on Spotify. It does not appear on Ghostwriter’s page and when a user tries to listen to the song through “Ghostwriter Radio”—a Spotify feature—a pop-up advises that the content is not available. At one point, Ghostwriter’s artist page was momentarily inaccessible before quickly coming back online.
The original videos posted by Ghostwriter on TikTok are also no longer available, although several of his videos are still online along with thousands of TikToks by other users using the song.
Before the apparent takedown, rightsholder Universal Music Group (UMG) told Motherboard that platforms have an obligation to take the song down, and questioned which “side of history” creators who use AI are on. “These instances demonstrate why platforms have a fundamental legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists,” it said in a statement. “We’re encouraged by the engagement of our platform partners on these issues—as they recognize they need to be part of the solution.”
Spokespeople for Spotify were not immediately available for comment.
Over at YouTube, the song was also wiped from the platform with a notice saying, “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Universal Music Group.”
The incident may well be a watershed moment for AI-generated content in music and the ethical issues it raises. In a TikTok comment, Ghostwriter claimed to be a ghostwriter in the music industry who “got paid close to nothing just for major labels to profit,” and so using AI to bootleg superstars was revenge of a sort. Meanwhile, large music corporations like UMG claim to be on the side of artists.