An artist-centric approach to AI innovation
Aug 21, 2023 – minute read
Aug 21, 2023 – minute read
I was still a young talent scout in 1980s London when the Fairlight CMI — the world’s first commercially available sampler – hit the scene. When I heard what it could do in tracks from Kate Bush to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, from Duran Duran to Art of Noise, among others, it was clear that music production was changing forever. Almost immediately, some decried this digital “manipulation” as “artificial.” I was in the other camp: curious at first, then enthusiastic, about the musical creativity it made possible.
Over the next decade, as more affordable options such as MIDI and Pro Tools came on the market, just about everyone who was interested could use digital synthesizers and samplers to help create the sound they wanted. But as big an impact as that technology had on music, I sense even greater potential in Generative AI to inspire and empower a new generation of talent.
Our enduring faith in human creativity is the bedrock of Universal Music Group’s collaboration with YouTube on the future of AI.
I also recognize AI’s potential for misappropriation and misinformation. Today's rapid technological advancements have enabled digital manipulation, appropriation and misattribution of an artist’s name, image, likeness, voice and style – the very characteristics that differentiate them as performers with unique vision and expression.
Given this tension, our challenge and opportunity as an industry is to establish effective tools, incentives and rewards – as well as rules of the road – that enable us to limit AI’s potential downside while promoting its promising upside. If we strike the right balance, I believe AI will amplify human imagination and enrich musical creativity in extraordinary new ways.
Our enduring faith in human creativity is the bedrock of Universal Music Group’s collaboration with YouTube on the future of AI. Central to our collective vision is taking steps to build a safe, responsible and profitable ecosystem of music and video — one where artists and songwriters have the ability to maintain their creative integrity, their power to choose, and to be compensated fairly.
We are working hand-in-hand with YouTube to launch their Music AI Incubator, which is first bringing together a working group of leading UMG artists, songwriters and producers in multiple genres.
To begin this important initiative, we are working hand-in-hand with YouTube to launch their Music AI Incubator, which is first bringing together a working group of leading UMG artists, songwriters and producers in multiple genres. This group will explore, experiment and offer feedback on the AI-related musical tools and products they are researching. Once these tools are launched, the hope is that more artists who want to participate will benefit from and enjoy this creative suite.
The truth is, great entertainment doesn’t just reach audiences on its own. It also requires the global infrastructure, new business models, scaled distribution, innovative partnerships, and effective safeguards that enable talented artists to create with freedom and receive fair compensation. In fact, it wasn’t long after its founding that YouTube first confronted the complexities and conflicts of User Generated Content and copyright law. But in concert with music companies, it soon pioneered the first legal framework and groundbreaking royalty system, Content ID, that allowed its users to layer copyrighted music into their videos.
Today, our partnership is building on that foundation with a shared commitment to lead responsibly, as outlined in YouTube’s AI principles, where Artificial Intelligence is built to empower human creativity, and not the other way around. AI will never replace human creativity because it will always lack the essential spark that drives the most talented artists to do their best work, which is intention. From Mozart to The Beatles to Taylor Swift, genius is never random.
Forging this path together, as a music community, will enable us to empower this breathtaking technology responsibly to the benefit of the entire creative ecosystem. Yes, there will surely be give-and-take as we work through AI’s opportunities and challenges. But music has always been fueled by such dynamic exchange, from the most ancient call and response, to dueling composers, to improvisational jazz, competing pop groups, sampling or live battle rap. It’s this spirit of exchange – collaborative and competitive – that has always driven creative progress, and fills me with anticipation and optimism for music yet to come.
— Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO, Universal Music Group