YouTube AI in talks with record labels on music deal

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YouTube is in talks with record labels to license its songs to artificial intelligence tools that clone popular artists' music, hoping to win over a skeptical industry with upfront payments.

The Google-owned video site legally needs content from labels to train AI song generators, as it prepares to launch new tools this year, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The company has recently offered major labels — Sony, Warner and Universal — lump sums of cash to try to convince more artists to allow their music to be used to train AI software, with several People told about the conversation.

However, many artists are staunchly opposed to AI music generation, fearing it could undermine the value of their work. Any move by the label to force its stars into such a scheme would be highly controversial.

“The industry is wrestling with it. Technically the companies have the copyrights, but we have to figure out how to play it,” said one executive at a major music company. “We don't want to be seen as a Luddite.”

YouTube last year began testing a creative AI tool that lets people create short music clips by entering text prompts. Initially called “Dream Track”, the product was designed to imitate the voices and lyrics of famous singers.

But only 10 artists agreed to participate in the test phase, including Charli XCX, Troye Sivan and John Legend, and the Dream Track was made available to only a small group of creators.

YouTube wants to sign up “dozens” of artists this year to bring out a new AI song generator, two of the people said.

YouTube said: “We don't want to expand DreamTrack but are in discussions with labels about other experiences.”

YouTube is exploring new deals at a time when AI companies such as OpenAI are inking licensing deals with media groups to train large language models, the systems that power AI products such as the ChatGPT chatbot. . Insiders say some of these deals are worth tens of millions of dollars for media companies.

The deals being made in music will vary. These will not be blanket licenses but will apply to a select group of artists, according to people briefed on the talks.

It will be up to the labels to encourage their artists to participate in new projects. This means that the final amount YouTube is willing to pay labels is undetermined at this stage.

The deals would look more like one-off payments by social media companies such as Meta or Snap to entertainment groups for access to their music, rather than royalty-based arrangements with Spotify or Apple, the people said. are labels.

YouTube's new AI tool, which is unlikely to carry the DreamTrack brand, could become part of YouTube's shorts platform, which competes with TikTok. Talks are ongoing and terms of the deal could still change, the people said.

YouTube's latest move comes after major record companies sued two AI startups, Snow and YouTube, on Monday, alleging they used copyrighted content to train their AI models. Using the recording illegally. A music industry group is seeking “up to $150,000 per work infringed,” according to the filing.

After facing the threat of extinction following the rise of Napster in the 2000s, music companies are trying to get ahead of disruptive technology this time around. Labels are eager to get involved with licensed products that use AI to create songs using their music copyrights — and get paid for it.

Sony Music, which did not participate in the first phase of YouTube's AI experiment, is in talks with the tech group to make some of its music available on the new tools, a person familiar with the matter said. Warner and Universal, whose artists participated in the test phase, are also in talks with YouTube to expand the product, the people said.

In April, more than 200 musicians, including Billie Eilish and the estate of Frank Sinatra, signed an open letter.

“Unchecked, AI will lead to a race to the bottom that will devalue our work and prevent us from being adequately compensated for it,” the letter said.

YouTube added: “We're always testing new ideas and learning from our experiences. It's an important part of our innovation process. We'll continue to lead the way with AI and music as we shape the future.” Build for.

Video: AI: Blessing or Curse for Humanity? | FT Tech
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