April 17, 2023

“This Is The Final Straw”: Drake And Universal Join Calls For AI Music Clamp Down

“This is the final straw AI,” Drake wrote on Instagram Stories after an AI-generated version of him rapping to Ice Spice’s “Munch” went viral. The Canadian artist is the latest prominent industry figure to express concern over AI-generated music. 

Streamers urged to take charge

The Financial Times reports that Universal Music Group (UMG) wrote a letter to major streamers, including Spotify and Apple Music, to clamp down on AI-generated music.

UMG, which controls about a third of the global music market, said they were concerned about AI bots training on their catalog and churning out copycat music.

“We have become aware that certain AI systems might have been trained on copyrighted content without obtaining the required consents from, or paying compensation to, the rightsholders who own or produce the content,” UMG told services. 

“We will not hesitate to take steps to protect our rights and those of our artists,” UMG wrote to online platforms in emails viewed by the FT.

Playing whack-a-mole with AI fakes

Recent viral AI-generated music include versions of Rihanna singing Beyoncé’s “Cuff It,” Travis Scott rapping Pop Smoke’s “For the Night,” and Ye (Kanye West) singing Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.”

An AI-generated Jay-Z track even sparked one of the first successful copyright strikes after the artist’s agent, Roc Nation, got the song pulled from YouTube.

Websites like drayk.it allowed users to enter a prompt and receive a clip that sounded like a custom Drake song, while YouTube pages like PluggingAI uploaded AI-generated parodies featuring Ye singing songs by The Weeknd or SZA. Both have been shut down, but the music industry is largely playing whack-a-mole as similar platforms pop up regularly.

Grammy Award-winning audio engineer and producer Young Guru has repeatedly voiced concerns over AI-generated music.

“I’ve been trying to tell everyone that this is where we are now with AI. For some reason this one got everyone’s attention,” Young Guru wrote on Instagram alongside a clip of an AI-generated Jay-Z verse. 

screengrab of Youtube video showing AI generated Jay Z verses

“One hand I’m well aware that you can’t stop technology. Once the genie is out of the box you can put him back in. On the other hand we have to protect the rights of the artist. Not only artist but everyone in society.”

“People should not be able to take your Name, Image and Likeness without permission. We have to add the voice to this law. We have to learn from past mistakes. You would be a fool to chase every person that is going to do this. We learned that lesson with Napster. The only way I see to deal with it is to change the law.”

Tackling copyright risks

Google’s MusicLM, which generates music from any text description, was trained from a data set of 280,000 hours of music, according to a research paper. However, Google’s researchers found that about 1% of the generated music was a direct replica of copyrighted work. As a result, MusicLM’s release has been put on hold while Google works to “tackle these risks.”

In October, the Recording Industry Association of America told the US trade representative, “To the extent these services, or their partners, are training their AI models using our members’ music, that use is unauthorized and infringes our members’ rights by making unauthorized copies of our members’ works.”

A UMG spokesperson told the FT: “We have a moral and commercial responsibility to our artists to work to prevent the unauthorized use of their music and to stop platforms from ingesting content that violates the rights of artists and other creators. We expect our platform partners will want to prevent their services from being used in ways that harm artists.”

At the time of writing Spotify declined to comment, and Apple did not respond to FT’s request for comment.

Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)