Scammers used AI-generated Frank Ocean songs to steal thousands of dollars

It follows the fake Drake and The Weeknd song that circulated last month.

Mario Anzuoni / reuters

More AI-generated music mimicking a famous artist has made the rounds — while making lots of money for the scammer passing it off as genuine. A collection of fake Frank Ocean songs sold for a reported $13,000 CAD ($9,722 in US dollars) last month on a music-leaking forum devoted to the Grammy-winning singer, according to Vice. If the story sounds familiar, it’s essentially a recycling of last month’s AI Drake / The Weeknd fiasco.

As generative AI takes the world by storm — Google just devoted most of its I/O 2023 keynote to it — people eager to make a quick buck through unscrupulous means are seizing the moment before copyright laws catch up. It’s also caused headaches for Spotify, which recently pulled not just Fake Drake but tens of thousands of other AI-generated tracks after receiving complaints from Universal Music.

The scammer, who used the handle mourningassasin, told Vice they hired someone to make “around nine” Ocean songs using “very high-quality vocal snippets” of the Thinkin Bout You singer’s voice. The user posted a clip from one of the fake tracks to a leaked-music forum and claims to have quickly convinced its users of its authenticity. “Instantly, I noticed everyone started to believe it,” mourningassasin said. The fact that Ocean hasn’t released a new album since 2016 and recently teased an upcoming follow-up to Blond may have added to the eagerness to believe the songs were real.

The scammer claims multiple people expressed interest in private messages, offering to “pay big money for it.” They reportedly fetched $3,000 to $4,000 for each song in mid to late April. The user has since been banned from the leaked-music forum, which may be having an existential crisis as AI-generated music makes it easier than ever to produce convincing knockoffs. “This situation has put a major dent in our server’s credibility, and will result in distrust from any new and unverified seller throughout these communities,” said the owner of a Discord server where the fake tracks gained traction.