An artist’s voice makes their persona and often is the most valuable part of their livelihood. "To steal it, no matter the means, is wrong,” Universal Music Group general counsel Jeffrey Harleston told U.S. lawmakers last month.
Google and Universal Music Group are in talks to license artists’ melodies and voices for songs generated by artificial intelligence (AI) as the music industry tries to determine how to protect one of the the biggest revenue generators -- mainly the artist's voice.
Frank Sinatra’s voice, the Financial Times reports, has been used on a version of the hip-hop song “Gangsta’s Paradise,” while Johnny Cash’s voice has been deployed on the pop single “Barbie Girl.” PluggingAI, a YouTube user, offers songs that imitating the voices of rappers Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.
Discussions have been confirmed by four people familiar with the matter, reports FT. The goal is to create a partnership between technology and an industry that is trying to figure out how to deal with the challenges of AI technology.
The early stage talks between Google and Universal Music aim to determine how to develop a tool for fans who want to create these tracks legitimately, and pay the owners of the copyrights for it, reported the FT, citing people close to the situation.
Artists would have the choice to opt in. Warner Music reportedly has also been talking to Google about a product.
“With the right framework in place, AI will also enable fans to pay their heroes the ultimate compliment through a new level of user-driven content, including new cover versions and mashups,” Robert Kyncl, chief executive of Warner Music, said during the company’s earnings call. “AI is unquestionably one of the most transformative forces in human history. Nonetheless, this technology shift is more familiar terrain than first meets the eye. Like many technologies before, it presents massive opportunities for human creativity and innovation.”
Artists should have the choice to opt in Kyncl said.
While major record labels are struggling with the idea and what to do with it, some artists have embraced AI technology. Grimes, the electronic artist, has offered to let people use her voice in AI-generated songs for 50% of the royalties.
“I'll split 50% royalties on any successful AI generated song that uses my voice,” Grimes wrote on the social media platform X. “Same deal as I would with any artist i collab with. Feel free to use my voice without penalty. I have no label and no legal bindings.”