This article was published as an opinion piece on altinget.dk on 18 September 2023.
We are currently at a crossroads where we must decide whether we primarily want people or computers to shape the soundtrack of our lives.
AI-generated music is growing rapidly, and a political response is urgently needed if we want to ensure that we can still see ourselves reflected in the human emotions and storytelling found at the heart of music.
At Koda, we are fully aware that artificial intelligence will become an integral part of music creation and, thereby, of the creation of our shared culture. On the one hand, we see positive potential in having AI assist composers and songwriters in the creative process, creating new modes of musical expression. But on the other hand, we also see very real challenges that call for action now.
Music creators must have a share in the earnings
When AI models can generate millions of new songs in virtually no time, we not only risk an erosion of the music creators’ finances. We also run the risk of a great cultural loss for us as individuals and as a society.
Legislation is therefore urgently needed to secure two fundamental principles.
First, we need full transparency in the data used by tech companies to train their AI. Secondly, we need a collective model that ensures fair payment for the use of the music and cultural content which forms the very basis for the tech companies’ ability to develop AI-generated music.
An AI system capable of generating music is trained on existing music, lyrics and associated metadata in order to learn the patterns of the music’s sound and structure. Once the big AI models have mapped our musical heritage and decoded the music’s DNA, they never forget it. They only need to access the music once to be able to extract its essence.
For this reason, we must ensure that music creators get a fair share of the values generated by artificial intelligence models. This holds true now and far into the future.
The tech giants are entering the music scene
In all probability, it will be the well-known American tech giants – who have already had a strong impact on the democratic conversation and our culture – that will dominate the AI market. This also applies to the music industry.
For example, Google and Meta are both currently developing their own AI music generation service.
Huge commercial interests drive these ventures forward, but they are not necessarily informed by any great love for music nor by a willingness to share the value generated with those who created the music underpinning it all.
Legislation is urgently needed to secure two fundamental principles - Gorm Arildsen
For this reason, it is vitally important that from a political side it is ensured that the economic value AI creates does not only accrue to the tech companies. The music creators must not be forgotten. We need to establish a sustainable economy if we want to keep the music and culture of the future from being dominated by the algorithms of the tech giants.
Copyright must be protected
Getting down to specifics, Koda has two overall wishes for new legislation that can help secure the music creators’ livelihood in a not-too-far future when AI-generated music really gains traction.
There must be full transparency surrounding the data used by tech companies to train their AI: we have already seen examples of rightsholders’ works being improperly used. The only way to actually achieve this is by adopting the presumption rule concept.
Such a rule would mean that if a tech company develops an AI model capable of generating music, the company must provide full documentation proving that the AI model was not trained on copyrighted music. If they do not, the company must enter into an agreement with and pay the rightsholders.
An equally important issue is that payment for and access to the music used to develop AI models should be covered by the same type of collective agreement system which today works so well within areas such as cable TV.
Having such a system would mean that AI services won’t need to negotiate with a multitude of rightsholders to gain access to music. More importantly, such a set-up would ensure equal payment to all rightsholders – counteracting a scenario where the powerful international forces get away with all the money.
The human touch must remain
We should always remember that music and culture is more than just the sum of the parts that can be quantified as data.
If we strip away the foundations that enable people to make a living as a composer and songwriter, we run the risk of having a poorer selection of music in the future: only the formulaic and easily computed will be left, and we will lose out on all the unpredictable and ingenious which cannot be quantified, yet still hits us right in our hearts.
The time to act is now. We must find solutions to ensure that the harmony between AI technology and human music creators is to the benefit of us all, and that we will continue to have a rich and vibrant music scene in the future with the irreplaceable human touch taking centre stage.
CEO of Koda