Daniel Ek Confirms Spotify Won’t Ban AI Music Outright, Doubles Down on Soundalike-Track Restrictions

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Daniel Ek has confirmed that Spotify won’t ban AI music outright. Photo Credit: Markus Winkler

Spotify head Daniel Ek has officially confirmed that his streaming platform won’t ban artificial intelligence music altogether.

Ek, a well-documented enthusiast of and investor in AI, clarified his position on auto-generated music in a recent BBC sit down. The interview appears to have coincided with Spotify’s announcement of AI-powered voice translations of leading podcasts, which, after being recorded in English, can now be streamed in Spanish, French, and German.

According to the BBC piece, Ek pinpointed three main classifications for the use of AI in the music sphere, one referring to cutting-edge tools designed to enhance and contribute to works. The Spotify CEO described the latter, which are already being utilized by commercially prominent acts, as acceptable.

Expanding upon the idea, Warner Music’s Robert Kyncl has readily disclosed the use of AI by his label’s artists – rendering the full-scale prohibition of artificial intelligence music a no-go on Spotify, at the Grammys, and elsewhere.

But the Helsing backer Ek acknowledged “a more contentious middle ground” with regard to AI releases that were “clearly influenced” by popular creators but don’t directly mimic the professionals. The third classification, encompassing songs that do in fact mimic artists, isn’t acceptable, according to Ek, whose platform promptly booted unauthorized soundalike tracks such as “Heart on My Sleeve” when they began making a splash.

In May, Spotify removed a number of songs created with AI via Boomy – albeit because of alleged fake streams. Boomy, which says it can pump out unique tracks in “seconds,” still offers a variety of music on Spotify and has been used to generate a staggering 17,488,311 songs thus far, according to its website.

Notably, amid continued controversy and litigation, in the U.S. and Europe alike, over the content with which AI systems “train,” the BBC indicated that Spotify “does not allow its content to be used to train a machine learning or AI model.”

Also during the discussion, Ek took a swipe at the alleged anticompetitive practices of Apple and addressed his business’s underperforming podcast investments. After some expensive podcast pacts failed to generate much content, 2023’s initial nine months have seen Spotify pivot away from agreements with the ultra-famous in favor of contracts with those who will produce (presumably compelling) episodes on a regular basis.

Besides working to keep AI soundalike music off major streaming platforms including Spotify, the Big Three labels are, of course, attempting to capitalize upon the unprecedented technology.

For instance, Universal Music in April of 2022 invested in AI music generator Soundful, which is now “trusted by” Georgetown University, Meta, Burger King, Microsoft, and ByteDance alike, according to its website.

More recently, on the heels of the announcement of an AI-music tie-up with relaxation app Endel, Universal Music unveiled plans to launch a “music-centric wellness app” called Sollos.