The era of generative AI has begun, and now, the power players in the music industry are scrambling to catch up, like Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. Both music companies have begun discussions with Google about the potential of creating a generative AI tool.
News of the discussions broke on Tuesday, when the Financial Times published a report claiming that “four people familiar with the matter” have confirmed that Google has been in the early stages of developing a new tool aimed at allowing people to create AI-generated music legally and “legitimately.” The talks with Universal and Warner appear to be separate, but Google’s intention appears to be the same: to build a way to support the creativity of generative AI without impeding on the rights of the artists whose work is being utilized to create it.
Specifically, this means that the Wild West days of “deepfake” mash-ups like Johnny Cash’s “Barbie Girl” or Frank Sinatra’s “Bad Romance” might be coming to an end, at least in terms of how things have operated. With Google’s new tool, artists will choose whether they want to “opt in” or not, and if they do, that means that other creators can utilize their voice or their songs for new, generative AI content, but the artist will still receive the payments they’re owed thanks to their copyrights.
This tool, of course, would naturally be of interest to Universal and Warner, who both appear to be concerned that AI-generated music could pose a threat to their bottom lines, similar to what happened in the early days of YouTube when fans would upload music videos or homemade lyric videos to their personal accounts. After years of back-and-forth, the music industry ultimately got YouTube to implement a system in which copyright holders were still paid for fan-uploaded content. This reportedly resulted in a $2 billion uptick in the amount the industry received.
Supporters believe that Google’s new generative AI tool could result in a similar success story. Per Financial Times, the chief executive of Warner, Robert Kyncl, told investors that “with the right framework in place,” AI could “enable fans to pay their heroes the ultimate compliment through a new level of user-driven content . . . including new cover versions and mash-ups.”
Talks are in the early stages, and “no product launch is imminent.” Nonetheless, the influence of AI likely won’t go away, especially in the music industry. Folks like Corey Taylor, Drake, and Nick Cave may not be fans, but others, like Paul McCartney and David Guetta, have already begun discovering exciting ways to apply the technology. With a new tool in their belts, who knows what creators will be able to come up with?