As unauthorized artificial intelligence soundalike tracks continue to pour onto YouTube and different platforms, Universal Music Group (UMG) and Warner Music Group (WMG) are reportedly in talks with Google to license artists’ voices for a music-creation tool.
The rumored discussions between the noted major labels and the YouTube parent came to light in a report from the Financial Times, which cited anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter. But the involved parties haven’t commented publicly on the subject, and it’s unclear when (or whether) they’ll ink a related agreement.
Similarly, Sony Music Entertainment’s own response to the emergence of unapproved AI tracks (and specifically those on YouTube) remains to be seen. As it stands, though, fans are still uploading all manner of songs – made to sound like new projects or covers from The Weeknd, Drake, Frank Sinatra, Lana Del Rey, Billie Eilish, The Beatles, and no shortage of others.
After assuring that these works wouldn’t make waves on streaming services like Spotify (non-soundalike AI music is a different story, however), flagging more than a few AI-music YouTube videos for infringement, and calling for stricter stateside AI regulations, Universal Music has according to the mentioned source started entertaining the possibility of licensing its artists’ voices and melodies for a music-creation system.
Talks “are at an early stage,” per the Financial Times, and the discussed tool’s launch isn’t imminent. The overarching goal for Universal Music (which in May partnered with relaxation app Endel to create music using “ethical AI”) is of course to secure compensation for the use of its protected assets.
Predictably, given certain artists’ well-documented criticism of AI and the technology’s inherent potential to eliminate careers, acts would have the option of participating in the rumored music-AI program from Google, which has already developed MusicLM. Meanwhile, WMG (which has teed up “big name” AI releases for later this quarter) is reportedly exploring with Google the possibility of finalizing a licensing pact for the same rumored tool.
Bigger picture, it goes without saying that there are far-reaching questions, pertaining to the commercial implications of enabling widespread soundalike songs and much else, about this AI offering. Even before the advent of artificial intelligence, which appears poised to evolve rapidly moving forward, it was already difficult for many acts to attract fans and listeners on overcrowded streaming services.
Now, on top of the strong listenership behind soundalike AI projects and ostensibly original AI creations, licensed artificial intelligence works (not unlike those that would reportedly debut under the rumored UMG- and WMG-Google tie-ups) are making a commercial splash. TuneCore-distributed Grimes AI, for instance, already boasts 144,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and seems to be releasing a steady stream of tracks.