The future is here and it's a video for (Don't Fear) The Reaper created by AI

A horrible reaper-type creature
(Image credit: Midjourney/Daara)

We still don't have flying cars, but the future is very much here, and it's arrived in the shape of new videos for old songs. This might not sound very Bladerunner, but the videos are generated completely by artificial intelligence.

We'll attempt to explain. 

Videomakers are creating the new videos using AI software that specialises in generating images based on text inputted by the user. For example, upload the lyrics to Blue Oyster Cult's evergreen smash (Don't Fear) The Reaper, alongside cues like "cowbell" and "instrumental bridge", and the software will pump out a bunch of images literally based on that text. Add those images to the original audio, edit it all together, and Hey! Presto! You've got a brand new, almost certainly surreal music video. 

You can even provide direction. Want a video using images rendered in the style of Salvador Dali? Ask, and the machine will obey.   

There's plenty of examples on YouTube, as any search for "lyric" + "AI generated images" will prove. Alongside (Don't Fear) The Reaper you'll find new videos for Queen's Don't Stop Me Now, the Eagles' classic Hotel California, Metallica's Enter Sandman, Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill, and hundreds of other popular songs. 

Quite where all this is headed is anyone's guess. The current videos are compiled using images that are much more sophisticated than the crude, occasionally nightmarish results produced by the Dall-E Mini app that went viral in June, and as the pictures become more professional – and therefore desirable – people will no doubt want to monetise the results. 

It's going to get interesting. Who owns the copyright when an image is generated by a machine? Why would a record company pay an illustrator to produce a lyric video when a piece of software can do the same job in a fraction of the time and cost? If a web app can produce an image drawn in the style of Roger Dean that looks like it was painted by the man himself, does Dean get compensated? 

Eventually there'll be songs written by AI, performed by artists created by AI. Perhaps these songs will be indistinguishable from those written by flesh-and-blood humans. Maybe they'll be awful. Maybe they won't. But at least we'll never, ever run out of tunes to play in our flying cars on the daily commute to Dystopia.  

Sign up to Midjourney to start making your own videos. A few of our favourites are below. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.