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We must ensure AI is the music industry's servant, not its master

The Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury festival 2023 (Alamy)

4 min read

The Government should bring forward an AI Bill to further protect the rights of our talented and hard-working creatives in a rapidly-changing environment.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is having a profound impact on the music industry, just as it is right across society. 

From the electric guitar to the synthesiser, musicians have always embraced advances in technology.  

Some of the advances in AI are beneficial, for example as an assistive tool for tasks including detecting copyright infringements to make sure consumers are paid.

However, the rapid development of generative AI raises some worrying challenges for the musicians, songwriters, and thousands of other talented creators who make up the UK’s music industry. 

Last year, a furore erupted after AI was used to clone the voices of Drake and The Weeknd for a song that went viral. It is expected that soon we will see even more AI-generated deepfake songs of artists from the UK and across the world.

We have also seen the sinister rise of sexually explicit deepfake images of artists like Taylor Swift generated by AI tools.

The UK music industry contributes £6.7 billion annually to our economy, around £4 billion in exports and supports 210,000 jobs. It also contributes an immeasurable sum in terms of the joy it brings millions of music lovers. 

We must grasp the transformative potential of AI in shaping the future of music if we are to retain the industry’s key role as a powerhouse in exporting music and nurturing world-class talent. 

However, we must also confront the threat that unfettered developments in AI could post to UK music creators and music businesses.  

That is why the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music which I chair has carried out an inquiry into AI in the music industry and made eight recommendations to Government which you can read in our report published today (Wednesday).

The central insight in our report is that AI can be a great servant but would be a terrible master.  

We ignore at our peril the necessity to sow policies and put in place the guardrails that will both harvest the benefits of AI and help stave off the potential threats AI poses.

AI does not exist without human intelligence. AI doesn’t create art in the human sense but ingests the patterns of human creativity to generate music and other outputs based on algorithms and predictions.  

There is no ghost in the machine, no soul in the computer. AI is a desiccated calculating machine. 

As a virtuoso tech instrument, AI is capable of analysing, generating and even performing music in ways previously unimaginable. It can help musicians to innovate and to inspire new human creativity. 

UK-based companies such as DAACI, who featured in our cross-party inquiry, are already thinking of imaginative new ways to blend music and tech to ensure human creativity is always recognised and rewarded.  

Amidst the excitement of technological progress, we must never forget the essence of music and the people who make it. 

By leveraging the collective strength of policymakers, industry leaders, and innovators we can ensure that AI serves as a catalyst for creativity and progress in the music ecosystem, rather than an inhibitor of growth and a destroyer of creators’ livelihoods. 

Our report outlines a strategy for embracing the opportunities in music presented by AI, while safeguarding the integrity of our music economy. 

I believe that my parliamentary colleagues have used their human intelligence to develop findings and recommendations that provide a clear blueprint for the future use of AI in music-making. 

Our report calls for the Government to create a UK AI Bill. Such a Bill should be pro-copyright and pro-creative industries. The proposed law would be a vehicle to ensure creators and consumers are protected in this new environment through robust copyright, clear labelling, accurate record-keeping, and new personality rights. 

It would also ensure the UK is not left behind internationally as other nations move to legislate. 

Intellectual property (IP) is a human concept. There is no such thing as Artificial Intellectual-property. Copyright law exists to incentivise human creativity by rewarding humans for the use of their IP.  AI companies cannot simply purloin that property and repackage it for their own gain without permission or a licence from its owners. 

There have been many technological developments since music was first printed on a page, punched onto a pianola roll, recorded on wax cylinder, disc and tape, or digitised on a computer. 

AI presents perhaps the greatest challenge of all, but each technological advance also generates an opportunity for creators. We need to muster the will and the vision to seize this one. 

 

Kevin Brennan is the MP for Cardiff West and is Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music.

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