Dr. Jo Twist OBE, Chief Executive of UK record labels association, the BPI
Music has always been at the vanguard of innovation, introducing new styles, embracing technologies and forging different ways for fans to enjoy the artists they love.
So this excerpt from the Government’s forthcoming Introduction to the AI Safety Summit might be focused on Frontier AI, but could just as readily apply to how we’re thinking about AI in the music industry:
“AI has begun and promises to further transform nearly every aspect of our economy and society, bringing with it huge opportunities but also risks that could threaten to……undermine our values.”
Our creative industries – with music central to them – are a key UK success story, crucial to our economy and society. Worth £100bn in GVA annually, they promise to deliver a million extra jobs by 2030. Rightly, they’re one of the Government’s five priority areas of economic growth.
The extraordinary power of music is emotional: it is a source of delight, comfort and inspiration. I recently witnessed this power first hand at the LSO’s truly inspiring Barbican performance of Questioning Everything. So, as the world gathers to consider what threats AI will pose, it’s imperative we also weigh the tremendous opportunities of AI to support human artistry against the clear and present risks that are apparent to creators and rightsholders.
Music’s ability to enrich lives and help grow the economy stems from the brilliance of its creators and the constant cycle of investment and promotion by record labels, who in the UK alone spend hundreds of millions of pounds annually on A&R (our equivalent of R&D). This is enabled by our world-leading system of Intellectual Property rights, which recognises the value of human creativity and enables it to be monetised. Now is the time we should question whether it is right that an entire body of musical work should be swallowed up to train AI with no regard to the value or toil that went into it. Now is the time to question whether it is reasonable that an artist’s voice or image, so integral to the fan relationship, should be exploited without permission by a machine. Because this is happening to British artists today.
Our music industry is the third-largest in the world and the biggest exporter of music after the US. It’s essential for UK prosperity and culture that we get the balance right with AI between innovation and regulation. For this industry to continue to deliver growth and value, we need a clear commitment from AI-developers and policymakers that training an AI using music requires permission and payment. We need acknowledgement that it’s not acceptable to take someone’s identity without their consent. And we need robust record-keeping to ensure we know what music has been used and generated by AI.
These principles relate to the need for ‘explainability’: only by knowing what AI systems have been trained on can we support growth and its potential. This will ensure we maintain the flow of investment into human-created music that is so central to the role of record companies, along with support for future cutting-edge talent we will see flow from the planned new creative arts school in Bradford and other centres of creative learning, like The BRIT School.
Ours was one of the first industries to digitise, innovating in response to all the consequences, before returning to significant growth. That’s why we’re optimistic that, If the UK gets this right, there is potential for a new golden age of music that will benefit the tech and creative industries alike, and ensure opportunities for generations to come.