Could OpenAI’s text-generating AI system replace Music Ally?


AI firm OpenAI made headlines earlier this year for its GPT-2 text-generating AI system, capable of being given a few sentences and then generating more text based on it. OpenAI declined to release the full system, for fear that it might be used for nefarious purposes (fake news, for example).

However, after months of tests, the company has now released the full version. Its blog post announcing the release outlines some findings so far: that GPT-2 *can* be “fine-tuned for misuse”, for which “detection is challenging” – but that so far “we’ve seen no strong evidence of misuse so far”.

Ever alert to an existential threat to Music Ally’s journalism, we’ve been putting GPT-2 through its paces this morning, using the Talk to Transformer website to feed the system the opening lines of recent news stories that we’ve written, to see what it comes up with to complete the stories.

And? Well, let’s just say that GPT-2 won’t be putting us out of work just yet: from inventing a chief business officer for Spotify to fabricating a five-million-selling ‘Dirty Girls’ hit for The 1975’s label. But AI being what it is, what GPT-2 is capable of now will be a long way from what it’s capable of in six months, a year, two years…

Anyway, see what it came up with below. Obligatory caveat: taking the first output and giggling at the mistakes isn’t a fair way of assessing this technology (and the same applies for music-generating AIs). Imagine training an AI on Music Ally’s entire archives, then hitting the ‘generate’ button 10 or 20 times per prompt, for example.

Spotify has just announced its latest financial results, for the third quarter of 2019. The streaming service now has 248 million monthly active users (MAUs), up 30% year-on-year, having added 16 million in Q3.

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The streaming company also reported that the number of people using its services has increased by more than 20 million since Q1. The number of people using Spotify Premium increased by 33% to 2.9 million, and the number of monthly users of Premium increased by 18% to 9.3 million.

However, the numbers of paying subscribers to Spotify’s main tier increased by just 6% to 12 million, and its free tier subscribers fell from 4.9 million to 4 million.

“It’s been a great quarter for us and we’re very excited to see our growth continues,” says Lars Backstrom, the Chief Business Officer at Spotify. “There has been a huge push into new countries, particularly in Latin America, and our paid subscriber growth continues to be strong.”

Wait, Spotify has only 12 million paying subscribers? It’s been lying to us all this time! And Lars Backstrom isn’t Spotify’s chief business officer (he actually works for Facebook)

One of the highlights of our Sandbox Summit conference yesterday was the session with Jamie Oborne, owner and CEO of Dirty Hit Records and All on Red Management, who’s been working with The 1975 throughout the British band’s rise. He had a lot to say about the challenges faced along the way.

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Dirty Hit Records was founded in 1992, but the label only started playing music in 1994. The label released its first record, The Year of the Harem, in 1997. The first single off of the album, ‪Dirty Girls,’ released in 2000, sold over 5 million copies and has been certified double platinum and gold by the RIAA. The band then went on to release another three singles that year, all of which sold over a million copies. The band continued to release singles and releases for the remainder of the decade and went on to sell over 2.5 million records in total.

There is no such album as ‘The Year of the Harem’, and Dirty Hit hasn’t released a single called ‘Dirty Girls’, let alone sold more than five million copies of it. But in an alternate world…

These are heady yet risky times for social app TikTok. Its downloads and usage continue to grow sharply, fuelled by a big-budget, long-term marketing campaign. It’s increasingly feted by brands and marketing teams within the creative industries, yet is also under pressure from the legal teams within music rightsholders, as well as collecting societies, over its licensing responsibilities.

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I’m no expert on music rights, so it’s possible that the law could end up being different on these sorts of things from what I’ve described here. The point is, even if the law is, in fact, on the side of the user, it doesn’t seem to be on the side of the company.

There is no obvious reason why a startup like TikTok should have any difficulty in securing its music rights. If you buy a digital download from Spotify or Google Play Music, you can expect your music to be licensed by the appropriate company. That’s how it works for all music.

‘I’m no expert on music rights’ isn’t an intro we plan to use regularly in Music Ally pieces. But this idea of buying digital downloads from Spotify sounds interesting…

“It’s Britney Bitch!” is all the blurb you get in the ‘About’ section of a new podcast that launched on Spotify on 7 October – all 89 episodes of it. And each episode lasts for less than five minutes… because they’re songs: demos, remixes and other rarities from Spears’ career.

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And this is just one of the hundreds of great new releases available every day. The music selection is a delight. There are lots of new songs to make your heart go ‘phew’ (especially if you’re a big fan of her other albums).

But the thing is, the podcast is about Spears’ music more than it is about the star herself. She’s just one of many famous names on the roster. She’s a name that many listeners have heard before – the singer-songwriter who’s been at the vanguard of a new genre, the singer who pioneered the genre of pop.

There are lots of Britney songs that make our heart go ‘phew’. But pioneering the genre of pop is taking it a bit far…

Stuart Dredge

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