ASCAP unveils initiatives around AI to ‘help music creators navigate the future while protecting their work’

Elizabeth Matthews, CEO, ASCAP

With AI taking the music world by storm, businesses, industry groups and artists’ groups are grappling with the challenges and opportunities the technology poses – and some are making an effort to prepare for an AI-influenced future.

One such group is the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), the US’s largest performance rights organization (PRO) by membership.

ASCAP has announced a series of new initiatives revolving around AI designed to “help music creators navigate the future while protecting their work.”

This year’s ASCAP Experience – the organization’s signature annual event that regularly features big-name musicians – will host a panel titled “Intelligently Navigating Artificial Intelligence” featuring insight from experts in the creative, tech and business fields commenting on how AI can potentially remake the music industry.

Panelists will include ASCAP’s Chief Strategy and Digital Officer, Nick Lehman, as well as composer Lucas Cantor and Rachel Lyske, CEO of DAACI, a music-generating AI system. The event is scheduled to take place in Los Angeles on June 21.

“Our members are telling us that they want ASCAP to help them navigate technology disruption, advocate for better regulation in AI and pursue compensation if their music is used in AI-generated content,” Lehman said in a statement.

ASCAP is also planning a members-only AI symposium, to take place July 19 in New York City. The event will look at “the broad range of opportunities and issues catalyzed by the proliferation of AI applications in the music industry.”

Additionally, the group is planning a 12-week “AI challenge” run by its ASCAP Lab, an innovation incubator run in conjunction with the NYC Media Lab, a project of New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.

ASCAP chose five teams that will receive grants and mentorship to help them develop their music-related AI technologies.

Among the participants is the aforementioned DAACI, as well as Infinite Album, which uses AI to generate “copyright-safe” music for video games; Overture Games, which builds video games to help new musicians learn to play; Simplifii, which develops technologies to help hearing-impaired musicians navigate the world of sound; and Sounds.Studio, a browser-based music production platform that employs AI.

“ASCAP has been adapting to disruption for more than 100 years. AI doesn’t scare us because we see technology as an opportunity to innovate for our songwriter, composer and music publisher members,” ASCAP CEO Elizabeth Matthews said in a statement.

“The future is bright and we have our helmets on to fight the fight to protect the rights of music creators.”

The organization has laid out a set of principles and advocacy positions with respect to AI. Those are:

  • Human Creators First – Prioritizing rights and compensation for human creativity.
  • Transparency – In identifying AI vs. human-generated works and retaining metadata.
  • Consent – Required to authorize works for inclusion in an AI training license.
  • Compensation / Free Market – Willing buyer, willing seller licensing framework.
  • Credit – When creators’ works are utilized to produce new AI-generated music.
  • Global Consistency – An even playing field that values intellectual property globally.

Among the many issues ASCAP and similar organizations are eager to address is the enormous flood of new musical content being uploaded to streaming services – 120,000 new tracks per day, at last count – much of which is helped along by AI.

That unwieldy new volume of music is causing concerns among recording companies that their own new music will be lost in the flood of new content. And for rights holders, it presents the specter of potentially large-scale violations of music copyright by machines.

ASCAP joined forces last month with Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), the other major US PRO, in a task force designed to “address suspicious registrations associated with musical works across the collective management ecosystem.”

The task force will focus on such issues as maintaining data integrity amid the endless onslaught of new musical works, and enhancing identity verification and validation protocols.

The task force will also work to raise awareness about suspicious activities and schemes proliferating in the music world today. Some of the most prominent include streaming fraud and AI-enabled copyright infringement.

“AI doesn’t scare us because we see technology as an opportunity to innovate for our songwriter, composer and music publisher members.”

Elizabeth Matthews, ASCAP

ASCAP is also a founding member of the Human Artistry Campaign, a group formed earlier this year to advocate for human creators as AI moves into creative fields like visual arts and music.

Though the group doesn’t oppose AI technology as such, its goal is to ensure that AI will not replace or “erode” human culture and artistry.

The Human Artistry Campaign has released a list of seven principles it would like to see guide the development of AI, among them the principle that AI be used to empower humans; that copyright will continue to be protected in the era of AI-generated content; that copyright should only be issued to human-generated works; and that transparency is “essential” when it comes to AI-generated content.

ASCAP calls itself “the only US PRO that operates on a not-for-profit basis”; the other major US PRO, BMI, shifted to a for-profit model in 2022.

ASCAP says it collected USD $1.522 billion on behalf of its members in 2022, marking a 14% YoY gain. Of that, $1.388 billion was made available as royalty distribution money to members.

The organization has 920,000 member creators, and licenses a catalog of more than 18 million musical works to businesses that use music, such as streaming services and radio stations, as well as bars and restaurants, hotels and retail stores.Music Business Worldwide

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