The music industry must find a way to stay in tune with GenAI

The music industry must find a way to stay in tune with GenAI

The music industry must find a way to stay in tune with GenAIĀ© Yuichiro Chino/Getty Images.

Music and technology have coexisted for eons. In the past few decades, the music industry has had to reinvent itself to keep up with evolving tech. This trend can continue in the generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) era as long as the industry figures out how to address the latest issues.

Take the companies training large language models (LLMs) on data they should not use. Paul McCabe, vice president of R&D at Roland, the Japanese brand behind electronic music instruments, told ZDNet this poses a challenge for companies that want to be responsible and equitable with their training data and are willing to compensate for using it. Applications built using scraped online data clearly have the advantage over those that want to follow AI ethics guidelines.

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While regulators will provide the “teeth” necessary to compel AI developers to comply, McCabe underscored the importance of galvanizing grassroots support and helping drive the need for updated copyright laws. Rather than slow the adoption of GenAI in music, the focus should be on ensuring they can coexist harmoniously.

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“Music and technology have always been intricately connected,” McCabe said, adding that introducing new technology has not replaced humans in the past. Drum machines, for instance, did not stop the enjoyment of watching someone play the drums live on stage. Track recording did not replace orchestras, and music sampling is widely used now as the base to create new sounds, evolving from the days when it once generated many conversations around copyright.

GenAI can benefit musicians as well as the general public. Songwriters are no longer limited to the instruments they can play or the recording process they know; beginners can learn a new instrument more readily with natural language processing and conversational prompts. McCabe suggested that music, including human-created music, will continue to evolve like before, with GenAI creating another inflection point. “What that is and what it might look like, we don’t yet know,” he said.

Roland said he hopes to lay the groundwork for an AI-driven environment in which music creators will be equitably recognized and compensated for their work. The company, which manufactures keyboards and drum machines, has partnered with Universal Music Group to release “Principles for Music Creation with AI,” aiming to provide a clear path toward the responsible use of AI in music creation, including production, composition, and songwriting.

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These guidelines currently encompass seven core principles, including the belief that AI will amplify human creativity and that transparency is essential in establishing trustworthy AI. “We believe humanity and music are inseparable. We believe that human-created works must be respected and protected,” the principles state. 

This means using copyrighted works and music artists’ names, images, likenesses, and voices should be authorized before use. Furthermore, artists must be compensated. AI-powered platforms and policies should prioritize record-keeping and disclosure to maintain trust across all stakeholders, including fans and artists.

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The AI principles were established in line with principles from Universal’s Human Artistry Campaign, which was also created to drive the responsible use of AI to support human creativity.

More than 60 global companies, including music labels, recording studios, and academia, have expressed interest in pledging their support for the cause, according to McCabe. Adopting the principles is voluntary and will not be policed for enforcement, he added. Instead, the primary goal is to drive a responsible AI movement within the industry that is not owned by any one brand. “By identifying with the principles, you’re then accountable to your stakeholders, employees, customers, and investors,” McCabe said. 

Roland and Universal have also set up a joint R&D facility to develop “methods for confirming the origin and ownership of music,” the companies said. They will look to integrate Roland’s products and services in some universal-owned music production facilities worldwide. McCabe said their research efforts will include expanding DRM (digital rights management) protection around media, including the activities around a finished piece of content, whether a song, a sample, or a video.

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