The future of music

The UK’s Council of Music Makers (CMM) highlights a lack of clarity surrounding AI in the creative industries

November 22, 2023
UK CMM

Key takeaways

  • On the 20th of November, a UK roundtable discussion touched on AI’s impact on the creative industries.
  • An advocacy group, the Council of Music Makers (CMM), wrote an open letter expressing concern about the discussion.
  • They argue that record labels and AI companies are more in the loop than creatives.

The Council of Music Makers (CMM) is concerned about the UK government’s sincerity in addressing the impact of AI on the creative industries. 

In an open letter, they criticized a recent government roundtable meeting 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. 

Profoundly unbalanced and tone-deaf

CMM

The meeting on November 20 aimed to discuss the challenges and opportunities AI presents to creative sectors, including music, film, books, and photography.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer confronted the challenge of balancing the potential benefits of AI with people’s concerns, stating, “The UK’s strengths and accomplishments in art and entertainment mean we are well placed to take advantage of developing technologies in this field. But creatives rightly have concerns – and proposals – about how their work is used by artificial intelligence now and in the future, and I want to hear them.”

Despite Frazer’s intentions to grow the creative industries by £50 billion by 2030, creating one million new jobs in the process, the CMM’s open letter pointedly highlights the roundtable featured three seats for major record company executives but only one seat for a representative of all creatives.

The CMM argues that corporate rightsholders often make unilateral decisions without consulting the music-making community, prioritizing shareholder interests.

The letter also pointed out the secretive nature of deals being made with AI companies, excluding creators from the dialogue. “Deals are being done in secret, with decisions only communicated through press releases,” the CMM stated.

Deals are being done in secret, with decisions only communicated through press releases

CMM

The CMM urged record labels and technology companies to actively engage with music-makers on AI-related issues.

This aligns with recent calls from another organization, UK Music, for legal protections around AI technology to prevent potential “music laundering.” This describes scenarios where creators might not receive fair compensation for their work.

The UK’s twisting and u-turning relationship with AI and music

Earlier in the year, in August, the UK government reversed a forthcoming AI and copyright law policy plan.

In 2022, the government contemplated allowing AI developers to freely mine copyrighted data. As you might imagine, this proposal received intense backlash, particularly from the creative community.

A cross-party committee of MPs ultimately recommended that the government abandon the policy. 

One of the key concerns cited was the risk of “music laundering” – which the CMM refers to above.

This involves AI companies potentially using copyrighted music to train AIs, creating new compositions that, while legally ‘clean,’ bypassed the rightful compensation to the original creators. 

By the end of August this year, a parliamentary committee press release confirmed that MPs supported the decision to abandon the policy. 

For a government known for its U-turns, it was hardly a surprise. It was, however, certainly a relief.

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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