Google and Universal Music in Talks to Monetize AI-Generated Songs: Report

The goal is to "develop a tool for fans" to create AI-generated music "legitimately"

Photo: Christiaan Colen (code)

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Aug 10, 2023

A new report claims Google and Universal Music are in talks to license artists' melodies and voices in an effort to formalize — and monetize — AI-generated songs.

Published by Financial Times, the report notes that the shared goal of the record label and tech giant is to "develop a tool for fans" to use in creating the AI-generated tracks "legitimately," one part of a framework that would also see associated copyright owners paid appropriately.

"Legitimately" is the key word here: this year, AI voice models able to mimic the vocal delivery of popular artists have been used to have Kanye West rap Drake's entire 2013 album Nothing Was the Same, or in a more extreme case, effectively reunite Oasis.

For Universal Music Group (UMG), the issue came to a head earlier this year upon a viral AI-generated collaboration between voice models of Drake and the Weeknd reaching the mainstream.

After having the track removed from streaming services with a successful copyright claim, UMG shared in a statement, "The training of generative AI using our artists' music (which represents both a breach of our agreements and a violation of copyright law) as well as the availability of infringing content created with generative AI on DSPs, begs the question as to which side of history all stakeholders in the music ecosystem want to be on: the side of artists, fans and human creative expression, or on the side of deep fakes, fraud and denying artists their due compensation."

FT's report notes that discussions "are at an early stage," according to four sources "familiar with the matter," adding that artists would have the choice to opt in to having their likeness used. The publication also notes that Warner Music has been in similar talks with Google surrounding an AI product.

While there are artists who are clearly uncomfortable with their AI likeness being used, others have been quick to embrace the technology. Liam Gallagher appeared to be cool with the aforementioned AI Oasis, while Grimes launched an AI vocal service based around her own voice — prior to proclaiming late last month, "I Wanna Be Software."

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