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As the Writers Guild of America comes to an agreement with movie and television studios over the use of AI in Hollywood, it would appear that the music industry is in for a reckoning too. CEO of Warner Music Group Robert Kyncl thinks AI is a really good thing for the music industry, actually. TechCrunch reported on Kyncl’s stance, which was revealed during an appearance at the 2023 Code Conference.
“You have to embrace the technology, because it’s not like you can put technology in a bottle…like the genie is not going back in,” Kyncl said, as quoted by the outlet.
An issue that’s top of mind for creatives in this day and age is protecting themselves from AI ripping off their work. Kyncl cited his time at YouTube, during which he served as the company’s chief of business for over a decade. The team at the video-sharing platform developed a system called Content ID to detect when copyrighted music had been used in an uploaded video. That system then flags the video and keeps it from making money. According to TechCrunch, Kyncl says that Warner Music Group is looking to create a similar system to protect its roster, who can opt-out if they so choose.
“We built a multi-billion dollar business [at YouTube], which now is a multi-billion dollar business per year,” Kyncl said. “It was an incredible revenue stream for everyone. AI is that, with new super tools. We need to approach it with the same thoughtfulness and we have to make sure that artists have a choice.”
While YouTube’s content ID can be hit or miss in its detection and has caused many problems for creators, AI detection could be significantly more difficult to pull off. Earlier this month, OpenAI admitted that at the moment there are no detectors that can “reliably distinguish between AI-generated and human-generated content.”
As it stands, the music industry is pretty torn on this whole AI thing. In August, it was revealed that Google and Universal Music Group were in talks to license artist voices to recreate their vocals with artificial intelligence using a piece of software. With this tool, fans can create any song they want using their favorite artist’s voice, but that artist will receive compensation as a copyright holder. Similarly, Google and UMG furthered their partnership with the incredibly vague YouTube incubator that will see artists guide YouTube’s approach to dealing with AI-generated music content. UMG’s attempts to lasso the bucking bronco of AI comes after the record label asked streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music to stop letting machine learning train on their services.
But the music industry’s efforts to curb scoundrels using AI to rip off the voices of signed musicians comes in the midst of a tidal wave of phony tracks. Earlier this year, leaked Frank Ocean tracks were sold on Discord for thousands of dollars, only for it to later be revealed that those songs were completely fabricated with artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, in April, an AI-generated collaboration between Drake and The Weeknd called “Heart on My Sleeve” went viral before being pulled from streaming platforms. This month, the writer of that song, known only as Ghostwriter977, submitted “Heart on My Sleeve” to the Grammys in the Best Rap Song and Song of the Year categories. Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. initially said that the song would be eligible to be considered for the awards, before recanting that stance since the likenesses of Drake and The Weeknd’s voices were not legally obtained or cleared by the respective artists.