YouTube Reportedly in Active AI-Related Discussions with UMG, WMG, Sony Music

YouTube AI Sony
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YouTube AI Sony
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Photo Credit: Javier Miranda

YouTube is reportedly in talks with major record labels to license their songs to legally train AI song generators.

The Google-owned video platform desperately needs record labels’ consent to legally train AI song generators, as YouTube prepares to launch new tools this year. The company is reportedly in talks with the Big Three — Sony, Universal, and Warner — to win over more artists in allowing their music to be used in training generative artificial intelligence software.

Unsurprisingly, many artists remain firm in their opposition to AI music generation for fear it could undermine the value of their work. Any efforts by a label to force their artists into such an agreement would be controversial at best, and a death sentence at worst.

“The industry is wrestling with this,” said an executive at an unspecified large music company. “Technically, the companies have the copyrights, but we have to think through how to play it — we don’t want to be seen as a Luddite.”

Last year, YouTube began testing a genAI tool that enables people to create short music clips using a text prompt. That tool, called “Dream Track,” was designed to imitate the sound of well-known singers — specifically, the 10 who agreed to participate in it, including Charli XCX, John Legend, and Troye Sivan. Dream Track was only made available to a small group of creators for its testing phase.

Now, YouTube wants to enlist “dozens” of artists for the launch of its new AI song generator later this year. “We’re not looking to expand Dream Track, but are in conversations with labels about other experiments,” said YouTube.

YouTube’s move comes at a time when AI companies like OpenAI are forced to either sink or swim: striking licensing agreements with media groups to train language models or risk getting slapped with numerous lawsuits for the unauthorized use of someone else’s work.

Some of those deals, according to insiders, are worth tens of millions of dollars to media companies. For the music industry, these deals would look a little different. Rather than a blanket license, they would apply to a select group of artists, according to people close to the discussions.

Instead of royalty-based arrangements that labels have in place with streaming platforms like Spotify or Apple, these deals would be more akin to a one-off payment from a social media company like Snap or Meta to entertainment groups for access to their music.

“We are always testing new ideas and learning from our experiments,” said YouTube. “It’s an important part of our innovation process. We will continue on this path with AI and music as we build for the future.”