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  • Writer's pictureOlivia Bloore

The War on AI Continues: Sony Issues Warning to 700+ Tech Companies

Sony Music Group prohibits AI companies from using its catalog, stating that it aims to preserve ‘the paramount value of human artistry’.

Sony music fights AI
Sony Music vs. AI Music Generators

The rise of AI generated songs in the music business

AI tools can write songs, replicate artist’s voices with vocal synthesis, and even produce music. Vocal deep fakes regularly take TikTok by storm, reproducing the voices of artists including Taylor Swift, Post Malone and Olivia Rodrigo. However, ever advancing AI software can do more than just mimic musicians - there are growing fears that it may begin to replace songwriters, producers and threaten an artist's career in the recording industry.

One recent example is the the AI generated prediction of Taylor Swift’s track ‘Fortnight’ with Post Malone, which went viral prior to The Tortured Poets Department album release.

The track was met with approval by music lovers, having been created with no personal involvement from either artist. In recent years, however, we have seen musicians and major record labels in the music industry starting to push back against AI generated music.

Sony Music Group’s letter to over 700 software developers reveals a fear that AI technology now infringes on the ‘value of human artistry’ and copyright ownership in the music business.

AI Music Generators
AI Music Generators

Artists push back against AI generated music

Earlier in the year, we saw hundreds of artists, actors and music creators, including Cardi B, Bonnie Raitt and Elvis Costello, sign a letter from the Human Artistry Campaign. The ‘No AI Fraud Act’ pledged to ‘defend your fundamental human right to your voice and likeness, protecting everyone from non consensual deep fakes.’ Whilst our digital environment is quickly adapting to a new market of AI generated music and art, creatives are aiming to restrict its influence in order to preserve the original value of their work.

In April, we saw artists including Billie Eillish, Nicki Minaj and Billy Porter sign the open letter from the Artist Rights Alliance which called on AI developers to ‘not develop AI technology [...] that undermines or replaces the human artistry of songwriters and artists’. The letter addresses how AI original songs can ‘sabotage creativity’ and undermine the work of songwriters, who are an integral part of the recording industry.

The current unsatisfactory wage of songwriters was brought to public attention by six time BRIT award winner Raye, who argued that writers are already severely underpaid. Talking to Wired, the artist said,'songwriters you are profiting off are broke, can’t afford rent’. If music created by AI generators continues to gain the approval of the general public, are the careers of songwriters under threat from being further ‘undermined’ - or even completely replaced? 

Artists push back against AI generated music
Artists push back against AI generated music

Sony Music Group restricts AI developers

On May 16, Sony Music Group announced its ‘Declaration of AI Training Opt Out’, stating that the company is ‘a passionate believer in the inherent and paramount value of human artistry’. This has taken the ethos of open letters further, directly prohibiting the development of AI software from using its catalog and campaigning for the rights of songwriters and artists to be saved from AI reproduction.

Whilst the letter clarified an understanding that AI was an innovative tool, and supported artists embracing ‘new technologies in support of their art’, it stated that the rights of songwriters and recording artists must be respected.

The letter explicitly prohibits AI companies from using the Sony Music Group catalog and media for the purpose of training and developing AI technology. Companies such as OpenAI, Microsoft, Google, Suno and Audio are now banned from using audio recordings, lyrics, melodies, and artwork from top artists under Sony including Beyonce, Céline Dion and Harry Styles.

What does this mean for the music industry?

It seems that with one of the major labels in restricting software developers from its catalog, perhaps AI technology poses a greater threat to the music industry than we thought. Having seen the positive response to AI generated songs on apps such as TikTok, technology may continue to produce high quality songs and royalty free music, which will further threaten the income and influence of songwriters and many producers. An artist's career is now under further pressure; songwriters must compete for audience approval against technology that can create original and high quality songs at a fast pace across a wide range of genres. Ultimately, artists are concerned that the value of AI generated art may meet or even overtake the quality of the human creative process. AI music is still in its early days - looking forward, we may see more streaming platforms, performance rights organizations and musicians pushing back against AI to preserve the rights of their musicians and songwriters to maintain the ‘value of human artistry’. 

Read more about: What's Going On In The World Of AI Music Today

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