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This Is Music: Artificial Intelligence And The Music Industry

Cliff Fluet talks about the potential impact of AI on the UK music industry and how music is at the "bleeding edge" of the new technology.

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21.11.2023: Media and Entertainment Lawyer Cliff Fluet talks about the potential impact of AI on the UK music industry and how music is at the “bleeding edge” of the new technology.

Cliff Fluet is Head of Media & Entertainment at law firm Lewis Silkin, Managing Director at Eleven Advisory, Chair of the Ivors Academy Trust, and Vice Chair of Help Musicians. Cliff has worked with and advised music artificial intelligence (AI) platforms for a decade.

What have you learnt about the music industry’s relationship to technology over the years?

For over 25 years I’ve advised at the intersection of music, artistry, rights, and technology. Whilst
many see, if not mischaracterise, music and technology as ‘opposing sides’, I have always observed that, like with music, understanding and applying both tension and harmony creates more satisfying outcomes.

Digital music, for so long perceived as a threat to the music industry, eventually led to more music, more revenues, and more access. All of this happened through responding to consumers, innovative licensing, applying copyright in a pragmatic thoughtful way and understanding the genuine benefits.

What do you think the impact of AI will be? 

With AI we find ourselves on the cusp of another evolution, if not revolution. Whilst some might believe this is as merely the next inventive step akin to the internet, my own view is that this may be as impactful as ‘steam’ or ‘electricity’.

The Industrial Revolution was more than the move to mechanised manufacturing and the application of chemical processes – it had a profound effect on the economy, how people worked, lived, made money, and changed society, fundamentally.

With AI it is harder to list the jobs and industries that won’t be affected than to begin to set out those that will. For the first time, some of the highest-paid and skilled workers are as (if not more) at risk as manual and repetitive labour. It is likely to be the last ever ‘human-only’ invention.

It is embedded in every device you hold – and will be embedded in most apps you will use. Education, medicine, and science in general will change, forever.

What are the benefits of AI to the music industry? 

As ever with technological change, and given its popularity and ubiquity, music finds itself at the bleeding edge of AI. UK businesses such as Jukedeck, Sonalytic and AI Music over the last decade applied neural networks and machine learning to music and were acquired by some of largest companies in the business to provide deep insight, adapt, generate, and apply new concepts to help transform the music industry.

Now, the widespread adoption of large language models, so-called generative AI (i.e. generating new content through artificial intelligence), and the application of prompts by businesses such as OpenAI have led to a supercharged interest from consumers.

If we are to learn anything from the arrival of digital music, we mustn’t try to deflect or deny the impact of AI, we need to understand the benefits and tackle the downsides.

The benefits are clear; the opportunity to deliver music to new consumers, to power discovery, champion new genres, globally and empower artists to create more and have more time to be more creative are only some of the upsides.

DAACI, a UK business, offers powerful tools for composers to create whole new, original, dynamic soundscapes providing huge opportunities for the use in film, TV, games, social platforms and beyond.

The music industry needs better tools for tracking usage online, for ensuring provenance and making payments from global networks. AI provides solutions that were not capable of being applied before.

What issues does AI present for the music industry? 

The downsides, however, are real. The opportunity for piracy on an industrial scale needs to be both understood and tackled. I was taught and apply a ‘contextual’ rather than ‘black letter’ reading of copyright… it is not a binary concept to merely prevent or control, but a highly flexible, pragmatic, and commercial concept to reward and recognise creativity which is entirely consistent with AI technologies provided we take a considered and informed approach.

Therefore, we should ensure that laws look to protect image, personality and other economic rights that attach to creatives. Such image and personality rights do not enjoy specific legislative protection in the UK, but they do in the USA and many other major music markets around the world.

We must also ensure that there is a thoughtful and balanced approach to understanding how AI analysis can be applied for good, but without instituting broad brush exceptions. One person’s view of ‘data mining’ is another’s view of outright theft.

We must distinguish between corporate innovation, human artistry and machine engineered solutions in a considered and practical manner.

Alan Turing, one of the greatest Britons ever, first posited ideas around conversing with a computer in natural language in the 1950s. The UK must remain a leader in AI, as it is in the music industry, but we need to ensure the right voices are being heard (and protected) so that we can amplify our business interests and retain our leadership position.

Read UK Music’s This Is Music report for more information on the state of the music industry in 2022.

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