Alex Brommer: The fear of the music stopping because of artificial intelligence
- Under pressure from big tech companies, the government decided to give its supporters a free ride
- The current proposals relate to the subscription strategy
- Any unsubscribed material will be open season for copying, mutilation or theft
Here is acceptance. As much as I enjoy listening to the music quiz show Counterpoint, expertly hosted by Paul Gamaccini, most of the questions fall outside my comfort zone.
One can’t help but realize the enormous contribution that British artists, songwriters, composers, producers and shows like The X Factor make to the UK’s thriving creative sector.
If there is any regret, it is that our record, retail and royalty funds, as listed companies – EMI, HMV and more recently Hipgnosis – have not covered themselves in glory. However, the sector generates £4bn in exports, according to the latest industry report, and contributes £6.7bn to the economy’s gross value added.
There are good things happening. Songs superstar Taylor Swift has chosen to use the revived EMI label to distribute much of her output. Amid the vinyl boom, HMV has returned to Oxford Street in London’s West End. Brit School is branching out in Croydon, home to Adele and others, with a second home in Bradford as the country rises.
Amid this optimism, there are major threats looming on the horizon. It has taken the music industry many years to combat piracy and enforce copyrights for performers, writers, producers and record labels. The biggest online platforms Spotify, Apple and others pay their dues and music creators are duly rewarded for downloads.
Under pressure: Record companies are not opposed to using new technology to enhance existing recordings and revive long-forgotten catalogs
The Tik Tok startup, as well as warping young minds with samizdat political propaganda, is now challenging the economics of Tin Pan Alley by refusing to pay its fees.
British singer Lucian Grainge, CEO of the world’s largest music group, Universal, takes up the challenge. It removes the music and videos of hundreds of artists, including mega stars Taylor Swift, ABBA and Harry Styles from TikTok, unleashing a social media storm. His company, Universal Music Group, launched sharp criticism against Tik Tok, accusing the platform of bullying and intimidation.
One suspects that TikTok users are unaware that the outlet is controlled by Beijing-based ByteDance and lacks democratic and institutional accountability.
No less dangerous is the incursion of artificial intelligence and the willingness of Rishi Sunak’s government to lie down in front of the steamroller in Silicon Valley. Record companies are not opposed to using new technology to enhance existing recordings and revive long-forgotten catalogs. The remastered recording of The Beatles’ “Now and Then,” which flew off the shelves, would not have been possible without AI.
If the counterfeiters fall into the wrong hands, they could use artificial intelligence to drive a coach and horses through copyright and artistry by imitating songs, music and sounds, stealing creative livelihoods and national income. The music industry is intent on enforcing singers’ royalties, recording and video rights.
Under pressure from big tech companies, the government is considering giving AI supporters a free ride. The current proposals relate to the subscription strategy. Performers and producers – from the biggest stars to rock bands honing their skills at the local bar or classical musicians – will be required to obtain a license to protect their AI. Any unsubscribed material will be open season for copying, defacement or simple theft. This approach would put all the burden on the performers to wrap themselves in bureaucracy and expense, to protect what is already theirs.
Culture Secretary Lucy Fraser is believed to be sympathetic to the objections of Britain’s tune makers. Everything is seen differently in Downing Street.
Last year, Microsoft was deemed a public enemy when company boss Brad Smith took to the airwaves to announce the Competition and Markets Authority’s decision to block the acquisition of gaming company Activision Blizzard as the “darkest day” for UK business. For four decades. Just a few months later, Microsoft boss Satya Nadella, after an air visit, pledged to invest £2.5 billion in an AI facility in the UK. Likewise, Alphabet plans to add an £800 million data center to its already significant commitment to its King’s Cross campus in London.
Silicon Valley is campaigning against legal or copyright restrictions on artificial intelligence that interfere with free access to entertainment material on its platforms. Sunak, in thrall to big tech and its investments in the UK, is listening. The consequences for the country’s music production, creativity and visibility are likely to be catastrophic.
(tags for translation) Daily Mail