Universal Music Group experiments with AI royalties

YouTube launches a music incubator with UMG

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The Future. Universal Music Group is hoping to generate an additional revenue stream for its artists with a new YouTube partnership on AI, dubbed the “YouTube’s Music AI Incubator.” With the ability to craft tools that respect artists’ rights, generative AI may soon represent a financial windfall instead of an existential threat. Considering UMG and YouTube are the biggest firms in their fields, the pact could set a precedent for the rest of the industry.

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A small cadre of UMG artists, including Yo Gotti, Ryan Tedder, and the Frank Sinatra estate, are working with YouTube on a framework for developing creative protections and a royalty system around generative AI.

  • The partnership is based on three principles: mutual collaboration between artists and YouTube for “responsible innovation,” copyright protection as a north star, and a focus on trust and safety to prevent misuse of tools.
  • Artists who are a part of the YouTube program will also get early access to AI tools and be able to provide feedback on them.

UMG CEO Lucian Grainge said the partnership is “about having the option to design how their music is actually used. Artists have never had that before, to this extent, leaning into a new technology.” Considering how streaming upended the music business, it’s possible UMG doesn’t want to find itself in that position with another transformative tech.

All this comes on the heels of UMG’s takedown request earlier this year of a song that deepfaked the vocals of clients Drake and The Weeknd. At the time, UMG said tech companies have a “legal and ethical responsibility to prevent the use of their services in ways that harm artists.”

YouTube apparently took that to heart.


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