The future of music

Council of Music Makers (CMM) criticizes the music industry over lack of transparency surrounding AI

January 15, 2024

Key takeaways

  • The UK’s Council of Music Makers (CMM) advocacy group released a statement criticizing record labels handling of AI and streaming rights.
  • They call for more transparent and open dialogue between creators and the industry.
  • This includes discussions surrounding copyright and intellectual property in the age of AI.

In a recent statement, the UK Council of Music Makers (CMM) strongly criticizes the major music companies for their lack of transparency regarding pressing industry issues such as AI and streaming rights. 

The CMM asserts, “It is not acceptable for a few major players to meet in secret, agree a self-serving business model and then present it to the world as a fait accompli.” 

This encapsulates the CMM’s frustration of major labels avoiding dialog with artists and the music community.

AI poses a risk to creators everywhere, as indicated by recent situations in the visual arts community, where Midjourney was found to be producing copyright imagery.

Copyright work finds its way into AI model datasets, which are trained on colossal volumes of data scraped from the internet. 

In addition to that, creators also face the risk of their work being replaced by AI in some way, as already evidenced by AI music platforms like Suno and LimeWire Music Studio. While these AIs aren’t capable of advanced music production, they likely will be in a few years – or maybe sooner. 

At that point, will genuine human music become diluted? Will we even be able to tell when AI has been used?

Does it matter? Is this not just another form of technological progress like digital sound production, the invention of MP3s, sampling, and so on? 

The CMM is concerned about the lack of dialogue surrounding these questions and others.

When the Council Of Music Makers sought reassurance from the majors that music-maker consent will be sought before allowing their music to be exploited by AI companies, we were met with a wall of silence.


The CMM’s recommendations

The CMM’s statement makes four recommendations:

  • Empower music creators: Music creators should be at the forefront of shaping streaming business models and exploring AI opportunities. This approach will lead to a digital music industry that truly centers around the artist. Decisions shouldn’t be made by a select few behind closed doors; instead, they should involve a broader range of voices, particularly those of the creators.
  • Open dialogue with record companies: Record labels must openly discuss how their streaming policies affect artists, especially in ways that disadvantage them. Every artist must be fairly paid for their streamed music. Honest conversations are needed to address and rectify these inequities.
  • Prioritize transparency: Music and digital companies need to prioritize transparency in their operations. Forcing artists to navigate the digital aspect of their careers without clear information about their earnings, royalty audits, and selecting their rights representatives is both unfair and detrimental. Transparency should be a fundamental practice, not an afterthought.
  • Accurate and comprehensive data management: Everyone involved in the music rights industry, including the artists themselves, must ensure that accurate and complete data accompanies every music release. Incorrect or incomplete data can lead to artists and songwriters not receiving due credit or compensation. This issue requires collective effort and attention across the industry to ensure every contributor is acknowledged and compensated appropriately.

Looking ahead, the CMM underscores the need for industry-wide changes, stating, “With your help we can transform the wider industry to benefit the people who make the music – the brilliant music-makers without whom no one can be a winner in this business.” 

The CMM’s November 2023 Open Letter

This follows an open letter from the CMM dated to November 2023.

They criticized a recent UK government roundtable meeting touching on topics like AI and copyright led by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) as “profoundly unbalanced and tone-deaf,” citing a lack of adequate representation for artists and songwriters.

This letter also brings to light the concept of “music laundering,” a term that encapsulates the fear among creatives that AI could be used to exploit their work without proper compensation or acknowledgment. 

This concern ties back to broader discussions about copyright and the ethical use of AI in creative processes, reflecting a growing unease among artists about their place and protection in a digital future dominated by AI.

The CMM’s push for artist-centric approaches challenges the traditional power structures within the music industry. 

It questions the long-standing practices of major record companies and streaming services, urging them to reconsider their strategies in light of the evolving digital landscape. 

Moreover, the CMM’s statements and actions can influence policy-making, not just in the UK but globally.

Sam Jeans

Writer and digital artist who has been covering the latest AI-related news, including generative AI and its influence on the creative industries. Sam plays drums and has been writing for tech and music sites since 2016.

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