With the rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI), we are rapidly entering an era in which the authenticity of the music we consume everyday could be called into question—potentially produced in part or in whole by AI models, instead of our favourite musical artists. Already today, people on social media platforms are using AI-trained voice samples to create new tracks replicating the sounds of superstars and generating viral sensations in the process. The rapid progression of this budding technology, and its potential to transform the music sector, naturally raises questions about rights to music royalties and intellectual property, and what changes could mean for the companies built around managing and controlling those assets. At the same time, AI could unlock a myriad of creative possibilities for music and content creation.
For an inside scoop on how the music business is navigating the imminent AI shockwave, we turned to Skye Rossi, senior vice president of business affairs at Rhymesayers Entertainment. Rhymesayers is a leading independent record label and artist-management company that has shaped the careers of indie hip-hop standouts, such as Atmosphere, MF DOOM and Aesop Rock. Rossi, who has experience with disruptive changes in the music business, having worked through the days of Napster, shares his take on the potential threats and opportunities of AI.
Music is the industry that generally gets disrupted first by technology, right? Back in the day, that was because video was so high bandwidth, and music wasn’t. Also, just the sort of transportability of it, and what people want to do with music. So, I like leaning into these new technologies…looking at it as more of a tool. So, there’s a couple different ways you can approach that, right? We could look at our intellectual property—an individual song, the lyrics, the visual, the underlying composition, and the artist’s voice…all these elements that go into it. And I think we can look at AI as a tool versus a huge threat, at least at this point.Skye Rossi, senior vice president of business affairs at Rhymesayers Entertainment
At Rhymesayers, Rossi works with artists with longer-tail careers versus major-label artists with top-ten chart hits. Rossi explains that his company’s business model is a 50/50 partnership with talent, and to be sustainable, its incentives are built around enriching its artists. From Rossi’s perspective, AI could present various opportunities to boost their offerings.
…one option I think for artists would be AI as an additional bandmate, AI as a songwriter, AI as a writer’s block tool, or using this as a way to sort of free yourself. If you’re a band that’s been producing the same kind of music for many years where you’re performing the same songs, et cetera, you could do something completely unexpected.Skye Rossi
Rossi does foresee challenges arising around the use of intellectual property. He anticipates the need to resolve trademark disputes and to create fair ways to participate in this AI movement.
I think there’s a big problem for us to solve here, which is how do derivative royalties work if you use a composition that one of our artists created or an even bigger sort of challenge, I think, and this is where I think we’re in a good position working with the artists that we work with because there’s going to be a big fight over use of voice.Skye Rossi
Rossi also recognises that AI presents more of a threat to pop music and the artists and labels that produce high-ranking, mainstream songs. Of the artists he has spoken to on the topic, most are reacting as he would expect to the phenomenon.
There’s where’s the craft, where’s the soul, where’s the heart? Where’s the connection to the humanity? I think the economic value of music has shifted greatly over the years, right? At one point it was the cost of a piece of vinyl, and then it was the cost of a cassette, a CD, and now it’s a stream and many people don’t even think about paying for it. But the emotional value of music has never changed.Skye Rossi
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