YouTube seeks record label deals for new AI music tools

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YouTube is in talks with record labels to license their songs to artificial intelligence tools that transcribe the music of famous artists in hopes of winning over a skeptical industry by prepayments.

The Google-owned video site needs the labels’ content to legally train its AI song generators as it prepares to roll out new tools this year, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The company recently offered a cash injection to the major labels – Sony, Warner and Universal – to try to convince more artists to allow their music to be used in training. AI softwareaccording to several people briefed on the negotiations.

However, many artists still strongly oppose it AI music generation, fearing it might devalue their work. Any move by a record label to force its stars to participate in such a scheme would be highly controversial.

“The industry is struggling with this. Technically, the companies have the copyright, but we have to figure out how to play it,” said an executive at a major music company. “We don’t want to be seen as luddite.”

YouTube last year began testing a generative AI tool that lets people create short music clips by entering text prompts. The product, initially called “Dream Track,” was designed to mimic the sounds and lyrics of popular singers.

But just 10 artists agreed to participate in the testing phase, which included Charli XCX, Troye Sivan and John Legend, and Dream Track was only made available to a small group of creators.

YouTube wants to sign up “dozens” of artists to launch its new AI song generator this year, the two said.

“We don’t want to expand Dream Track but are talking to studios about other tests,” YouTube said.

YouTube is seeking new deals at a time when AI companies like OpenAI are striking licensing deals with media groups to train large language models, the systems that power AI products like chatbots. ChatGPT. Some of those deals are worth tens of millions of dollars to media companies, insiders said.

The deals being negotiated in music will be different. They will not be blanket licenses but will apply to a select group of artists, according to people briefed on the discussions.

Record labels will have to encourage their artists to participate in new projects. That means the final amount YouTube may be willing to pay record labels is unknown at this stage.

The deals would be more like one-time payments from social media companies like Meta or Snap to entertainment groups for access to their music, these people said, rather than deals based on royalties that labels have with Spotify or Apple.

YouTube’s new AI tool, which is unlikely to be branded Dream Track, could become part of YouTube’s Shorts platform, competing with TikTok. Negotiations continue and deal terms could still change, the people said.

YouTube’s latest move comes as top record companies on Monday sued two AI startups, Suno and Udio, which they allege are illegally using copyrighted recordings. to train their AI models. A music industry group is seeking “up to $150,000 per infringing work,” according to the agency’s report. file.

After facing extinction following the rise of Napster in the 2000s, music companies are trying to stay ahead of this disruptive technology. Record labels are keen to get involved in licensed products that use AI to create songs using their music rights – and get paid for it.

A person familiar with the matter said Sony Music, which was not involved in the first phase of YouTube’s AI testing, is in talks with the technology team to make some of its music available to the tools. new. Warner and Universal, the artists participating in the test, are also in talks with YouTube about expanding the product, these people said.

In April, more than 200 musicians including Billie Eilish and the estate of Frank Sinatra signed an open letter.

“If left unchecked, AI will launch a race to the bottom, devaluing our work and leaving us undercompensated for it,” the letter said.

YouTube added: “We are always testing new ideas and learning from our experiments; It’s an important part of our innovation process. We will continue on this path with AI and music as we build the future.”


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