HYBE’s CEO delivered some strong fiscal results to investors last week. Except it wasn’t him. It was an AI clone.

Jiwon Park (the real one)

South Korea-based entertainment giant HYBE published its Q4 and FY 2023 financial results last Monday (February 26).

The firm revealed that it surpassed annual revenues of 2 trillion South Korea Won (USD $1.66bn) in 2023, led by what it said on its Q4 earnings call was “explosive growth in [its] album and concert businesses”.

That, though, wasn’t the most surprising thing that happened on HYBE’s discussion with analysts that day.

During the introduction on the earnings call, HYBE CEO Jiwon Park outlined the business’s performance over the past year, which included recorded music revenue growth of 75.8% YoY.

The exec also highlighted the company’s expansion into Latin Music, the performance of its Weverse fan platform, and the ongoing success of what the company calls its “robust multi-label system”.

“In 2023 we tried and proved many of the things that I wanted to accomplish we demonstrated the healthy fundamentals of the multi-label structure,” said Jiwon Park.

“We will continue to expand our business globally in 2024 [and] we will keep striving to achieve solid growth around HYBE’s artists, labels, solutions and platforms.”

Then things went a little… WTF.

At the end of Park’s opening remarks, prior to the Q&A session where he and CFO Kyung-Jun Lee were grilled by investors about the company’s performance in 2023, came a note from the call operator:

“Today’s earnings presentation was not delivered by CEO Jiwon Park himself, but through TTS [text-to-speech], an AI voice synthesis technology by Supertone.

“When you input [the] CEO’s voice sample and desired text, AI generates the speech in his voice.”

Supertone, as long-time MBW readers will know, is the AI voice replication software that HYBE fully acquired in a $32 million deal in 2022.

The operator added: “We thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase Supertone’s technology to the investors.

“Now CEO [Jiwon Park] and CFO [Kyung-Jun Lee] will address your questions in their real voices.”

“Today’s earnings presentation was not delivered by CEO Jiwon Park himself, but through TTS, an AI voice synthesis technology by Supertone.”

You read that right: HYBE showcased its proprietary AI tech on its latest earnings call, by generating a voice clone of its own CEO, Jiwon Park.

That voice clone of Jiwon Park, and not Jiwon Park himself, delivered the opening remarks on the earnings call.

You can listen to the HYBE Q4 earnings call yourself here.

Founded in 2020, Supertone claims to be able to create “a hyper-realistic and expressive voice that [is not] distinguishable from real humans”.

The company arguably proved as much on HYBE’s earnings call last week.

Supertone first generated global media attention in January 2021 with its so-called Singing Voice Synthesis (SVS) technology.

The company used this tech to “resurrect” the voice of South Korean folk superstar Kim Kwang-seok, with the subsequent AI-generated voice debuted on Korean television show Competition of the Century: AI vs Human.

In May last year,  HYBE showcased the possibilities of what it can do with Supertone’s technology when it released a new single called Masquerade from an artist called MIDNATT.

The track was touted by HYBE as the “first-ever multilingual track produced in Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish and Vietnamese”.

According to HYBE, MIDNATT (aka Lee Hyun) sang the track in the six languages, and using AI, “the pronunciation data of native speakers was applied to the track to further refine the artist’s pronunciation and intonation”.

The multilingual track employed the technology of Supertone.

“I don’t know how long human artists can be the only ones to satisfy human needs and human tastes.”

Bang Si-Hyuk, speaking with Billboard last year

For HYBE, the investment in AI voice technology via Supertone appears to indicate at least two things.

Firstly, a major effort to globalize its music by breaking down language barriers, as evidenced by the multi-lingual rollout of the MIDNATT single last year.

And second, it points more generally to the use of AI at HYBE become even more prevalent than it is today – as indicated by HYBE Chairman Bang Si-Hyuk in an interview with Billboard last year.

“I have long doubted that the entities that create and produce music will remain human,” said Bang Si-Hyuk.

“I don’t know how long human artists can be the only ones to satisfy human needs and human tastes. And that’s becoming a key factor for my operation and a strategy for HYBE.”Music Business Worldwide

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