Yesterday, we reported on the announcement of ‘five fundamentals for music AI’ by the UK’s Council of Music Makers. That’s the umbrella body for organisations that represent music creators (and their managers) – but not rightsholders.

A couple of the fundamentals mentioned those rightsholders. For example, that creators consent to having their work used to train AI models should not be “inferred by rights-holders or technology companies”. And also that rightsholders should be transparent about the terms of, and the works included in, any licensing deals they sign with AI companies.

Later in the day, labels body the BPI issued a statement by its CEO, Dr Jo Twist, in response.

“Music and tech innovation have always worked hand in hand. AI is no different and offers exciting opportunities, as well as new challenges that could adversely impact creators and rightsholders if the right balance is not struck,” said Twist.

“With AI developing at pace, record labels are focused on exploring opportunities to harness this technology and enable further innovation, growth, and support for artists, without undermining the strong rights framework that underpins the global success achieved by British music.”

“Safeguarding human artistry and the interests of creators is front and centre in all of this, and the BPI and its members look forward to maintaining open discussions with our colleagues across the music sector as we navigate the dynamic landscape of AI opportunities.”

It’s a carefully-worded statement, so let us read between the lines for you. Rightsholders (labels in this instance) are keen to defend music’s value in their dealings with AI companies, and in their lobbying of the policymakers who’ll regulate those companies.

They’d like musicians to trust that they’ll have their best interests at heart in those negotiations and lobbying, and they think that it’s important that the music industry shows a united front amid all this, rather than infighting.

The desire to defend music’s value is clear, and it’s very true that policymakers like united fronts when being lobbied. Trust? Well, let’s just say the last decade of streaming-economy debates has left some scars.

That’s why the creator-focused industry bodies are talking about consent and transparency not just from AI companies, but from rightsholders too.

“The BPI and its members look forward to maintaining open discussions with our colleagues across the music sector” could, if you were feeling mischievous, be read as “Oi! Why did you publish some fundamental AI principles implying rightsholders can’t be trusted? Can’t we sort this out quietly in private?” 

Music Ally prefers to trade in optimism rather than mischief. A united front IS going to be important in the months ahead, as AI deals are explored and regulation shaped. And building that united front around trust, transparency and consent is equally important.

It’s good to see a labels body talking about creators’ interests being front and centre in all this. Putting those words into action now will be the best path forward to negotiate the challenges (and take advantage of the opportunities) in AI – not just in the UK, but across the global music industry.

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Music Ally's Head of Insight