Commercial Awareness

The AI Revolution in Music Streaming

In this article, our commercial awareness analyst Tannima Begum explores the legal implications and challenges of AI in music streaming!

In the age of artificial intelligence, music streaming giant Spotify is leading the way in harnessing AI's power to enhance the customer experience and incorporate it into many areas. One such area is their new DJ feature that auto-generates music personalised to the listener's taste and inserts commentary between songs, aiming to recreate the radio-listening experience. However, this innovative feature is still in its infancy, available only to premium subscribers in select countries. This feature showcases the capabilities of AI and demonstrates Spotify's commitment to innovation. One striking aspect of this feature is the use of a real voice for the commentary, lending it authenticity. Spotify's Head of Cultural Partnerships, Xavier "X" Jernigan, lends his voice to the feature.

Spotify’s exploration into AI- driven features is no surprise; the company acquired the AI voice platform Sonantic, known for its speech synthesis technology, most widely known from its use in the movie Top Gun: Maverick. This acquisition paved the way for Spotify to introduce cutting-edge AI technology into its music streaming service, offering subscribers novel experiences.

Another one of their new features is using AI to clone and mimic voices of podcasters to translate them into different languages. This is another example of the way that Spotify is attempting to interweave AI and authenticity by emulating the real voices of podcasters in this pilot programme.

However, this willingness to embrace AI has led to issues with the way that AI is allowed to be used on the platform. Recently, Spotify has announced that any music that claims to be of another artist will be removed, however it will allow AI- generated music that is inspired by artists but doesn’t directly mimic them. This stance is controversial as it can be seen as taking away from the human creativity within the industry. This issue has been explored by competitors such as Deezer which has taken a similar approach in allowing inspired content to remain on the platform and is working towards a model that will compensate the original artist for the use of their creative substance.

Implications within the Legal Industry:

Spotify was forced to assert its position in regard to AI- generated music due to a recent case where Universal Music successfully petitioned streaming services to remove a song that used the voices of their two biggest artists, Drake and The Weeknd. They alleged that it was "a violation of copyright law" due to the use of their artists' music for generative AI training and was done without their consent. While this position hasn't been tested in court and remains a legal grey area, it points to the growing legal complexity surrounding AI-generated content in the music industry.

This complexity is deepened when thinking about the rules regarding AI-generated content that does not directly mimic an artist. There are questions about the ownership of this content- whether it belongs to the cloned artist, the creator of the AI-generated work, or the company that develops the cloning software.

These issues will continue given that streaming services and music labels have different views on allowing singers artistry to be used in generative AI training. This will lead to an increase in artists attempting to have increased legal protection over their work, however current laws don’t offer protection from people mimicking the songs, only if they are clearly copied. Therefore, it is likely that there will be an increase in music labels attempting to sue creators for using too much of their musical property in their work Within these cases, lawyers will have to formulating arguments based on nascent case law and evolving regulations.

From a lawyer's perspective, there will extensive work done in renegotiating contracts to include clauses about the potential use and misuse of their artists work within AI generated content and the potential penalties for this. This will also include lawyers being involved in licensing negotiations to explore how far their clients can use and modify copyrighted material as to not have breached any guidelines. Given the lack of previous legal precedent, these negotiations will involve novel situations and will require extensive research and creative solutions to satisfy both sides.