Alisa Finkelstein is a vice president and Clayton Durant is director of emerging media & platforms at MikeWorldWide.
As you’ve probably read many times in recent months, Artificial Intelligence is creating a Napster-like moment in the recorded music business.
Perspectives on it span the spectrum – record executives like Lucian Grainge, CEO of Universal Music Group, have cautioned the industry over the unchecked proliferation of AI-generated music, warning about risks of market oversaturation and potential infringements on creators’ rights. Alternatively, Spotify’s CEO, Daniel Ek, held a more optimistic view, noting AI’s potential to democratize music creation and enhance creativity. Even artists are divided on AI’s role in music; with creators like Grimes embracing the technology while legacy artists like Sting saying the technology has brought about a “historic battle” that will pin artists against AI-composed songs.
The music industry certainly finds itself at a pivotal crossroads where music companies will be forced to share their viewpoints on AI with various stakeholders throughout the industry — from artists and songwriters to investors, tech companies, and consumers — all poised to feel AI’s impact. If you are a music company involved in the ever-evolving AI conversation, here are some things to keep in mind while shaping your communications strategy.
Establishing Creators’ Rights for Equitable AI-Generated Music:
With technologies such as Google’s MusicLM pushing the boundaries of musical generative AI, it’s essential for companies to underline that these tools cannot replace songwriters, producers, or artists. Ensuring this message is properly conveyed will be critical as creators of all sizes are becoming increasingly worried about the impact AI could have on their livelihood. For example, a recent study found an overwhelming 73% of producers express concern that AI music generators could replace human music producers to some degree. Music companies should aspire to use communications to not only ease the anxiety surrounding AI but help creators see the potential of incorporating AI into their workflow.
Be Clear in Communicating Your Company’s Ethical Standards Around AI:
To navigate the AI landscape, music companies should clearly convey their ethical perspectives on AI. Many, including the Recording Academy, have been proactive by joining organizations such as the “Human Artistry Campaign,” a coalition of over 40 industries endorsing seven principles for responsible AI use. However, as AI’s influence grows, it will become increasingly important for music companies to establish their own unique AI ethics guidelines that keep creators, consumers, and industry stakeholders in mind. For instance, ASCAP has started expressing its distinct views by hosting its inaugural AI panel, “Intelligently Navigating Artificial Intelligence,” facilitating a comprehensive discourse on AI’s role in music.
Reaffirm Your Company’s Commitment to Protecting Copyright:
The Copyright Office’s latest guidance has stated that songs created exclusively with generative technology cannot be copyrighted. However, their guidance also noted that a work that contains AI-generated material may be copyrightable where there’s some sufficient human authorship. With this new guidance yet to be challenged in court, it seems inevitable that a copyright infringement lawsuit will be coming down the road in the not-too-distant future. With that in mind, music companies should not only create corporate messaging that highlights their commitment to copyright protection but articulates their stance on the two critical questions music companies are grappling with today: does using copyrighted music for training AI models without permission infringe on copyright, and does producing music using AI (assuming the model is trained on copyrighted works), in the style of existing works violate the exclusive rights of the original copyright owner to create derivative works?
Understand Current Consumer Viewpoints Around AI, And Its Potential Impact on The Music Business:
According to Luminate, the music industry hit a record trillion streams in the first quarter of 2023, underscoring consumers’ deep affinity for music. However, historically the love and passion consumers have for listening has not translated to interest or value in the works produced. This hasn’t changed with the onset of AI – according to Global Strategy Group consumers are already beginning to devalue music developed fully or in part by AI, with over half of consumers (58%) expressing indifference to proper compensation for artists who have their voices taken by AI generators or unauthorized AI derivatives of their musical compositions. The risk of indifference can be seen with the seismic changes Napster brought to the industry, music companies will need to leverage communications as one of their many tools to emphasize the intrinsic value of music.
If anything is to be learned from the Napster era it’s the importance of educating music stakeholders when new technologies disrupt the status quo. Fortunately, music companies can steer the narrative in this new phase, driving the industry towards an AI-enriched future that benefits everyone, from artists to fans. In this critical time, clear and concise corporate messaging is essential for industry leaders and staff to help all music participants navigate this rapidly evolving AI landscape.