Universal Music Group Reportedly Tells Streaming Services to Remove AI-Generated Music, Citing ‘A Moral and Commercial Responsibility to Our Artists’

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Photo Credit: Hitesh Choudhary

Universal Music Group (UMG) is reportedly pushing Spotify, Apple Music, and others to remove AI-generated tracks – and cease allowing artificial intelligence models to analyze its artists’ music on streaming services altogether.

The Financial Times just recently detailed the leading label’s reported effort to curb the streaming prevalence of AI-created works. Of course, it’s hardly a secret that artificial intelligence is playing an increasingly significant role in the music industry and beyond, after companies including but not limited to BTS agency Hybe, Spotify, Apple, and Universal Music itself invested in related technologies during 2022.

(Somewhat ironically, given its reported push to eliminate select songs resulting from artificial intelligence, UMG specifically backed Soundful last year. Upon announcing the corresponding multimillion-dollar raise, the AI-powered startup didn’t hesitate to proclaim that it “enables anyone to create incredible music quickly.”)

Meanwhile, certain AI bots are training themselves to create ostensibly original music by analyzing commercially prominent projects on streaming services; UMG’s library, including releases from Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, and Drake, is decidedly popular on Spotify and elsewhere.

Bearing in mind the points, the Big Three label has been targeting AI-derivative works with takedown requests “left and right,” according to an anonymous source with knowledge of the matter.

Universal Music is also asking that streaming services “cut off access” to its catalog “for developers using it to train AI technology,” per the FT. It’s unclear whether Spotify, Apple Music, and/or others have complied with the request, though, and it goes without saying that questions remain about this step’s actual impact on AI’s ability to draw from widely available media in the long term.

Interestingly, however, UMG in a letter to streaming services appeared to cite a lack of compensation and authorization – not the potentially devastating market effects of mass-producing music via AI – as the driving factors behind its qualms.

“We have become aware that certain AI systems might have been trained on copyrighted content without obtaining the required consents from, or paying compensation to, the rightsholders who own or produce the content,” UMG is said to have written to streaming platforms.

Additionally, a company spokesperson elaborated upon the subject in a statement, pointing to “a moral and commercial responsibility to our artists to work to prevent the unauthorised use of their music.”

“We expect our platform partners will want to prevent their services from being used in ways that harm artists,” indicated Universal Music, which is said to be developing an updated streaming-compensation model to assure that “great music is not drowned in an ocean of noise.”

Regarding the aforementioned multitude of questions that still surround AI’s role in the music industry and society as a whole, it’s worth considering the possibility that the associated tools could catch on with established members of the creative community. And on the intellectual-property side, the USCO one month back issued new guidance on AI copyrights – and disclosed plans to launch “an agency-wide initiative to delve into a wide range of” adjacent rights-related issues.