Soundful founder and CEO Diaa El All: ‘There is a way to create disruptive technological advances in AI while keeping the integrity of artists’ rights at the forefront.’

Soundful founder and CEO Diaa El All

MBW Views is a series of exclusive op/eds from eminent music industry people… with something to say. The following op/ed comes from San Diego-based entrepreneur, Diaa El All, the founder and CEO of artificial intelligence-driven music platform Soundful.

Emerging technology platforms, especially those where music is integral to their models, have traditionally trampled on the rights of artists and rightsholders early in their development.

They build their platforms with music at their center, and completely without regard to ensuring that artists, songwriters, and others get paid. It happened with Napster, it happened with TikTok, and other social media platforms.

True, as these businesses matured, licenses were negotiated and artists got paid, at least on some level. But in the early stages, ethical practices were compromised to the detriment of artist royalties.

This same well-worn path is happening with the development of generative AI music. Most of the leading platforms are training their AI models, at least to some extent, on copyrighted material, declaring that everything is above board because of the fair use doctrine.

As the founder and CEO of Soundful, a generative AI music company, I know that it is possible to create high-quality, innovative music generated by AI that is not trained on stolen IP. We’ve done it, so we know it can be done.

The ethical battlegrounds are starting to appear. Ed Newton-Rex, a prominent figure in the AI space who led the audio team at Stability AI recently resigned [from] his position after the company decided to continue to train their platform on copyrighted material because it was “fair use.”

In response to his feelings, he exited the company and created a non-profit called Fairly Trained that provides consumers with a transparent way to identify AI models trained on data acquired with consent from creators.

Soundful went through the Fairly Trained audit and was honored to be one of the first companies in the world to be certified by his new organization. In my opinion, this is the proper way forward and aligns with our company’s ethical position.

There is a way to create disruptive technological advances in AI while keeping the integrity of artists’ rights at the forefront. When we were building Soundful, we looked long and hard at the potential legal and ethical ramifications of traditional training methods and the risks associated with each.

This is why we spent years developing a proprietary approach that avoids training on copyrighted material. It was a much harder path for us, but we knew that training our model on stolen material was a non-starter.

Respecting the rights of artists and rightsholders is a fundamental principle that guides all of our strategies and aspirations. We encourage others to follow us on this path.

This isn’t to say that we should be against AI training on existing material when the original artist has given their explicit permission. We recently launched Soundful Collabs with such partners as 3LAU, Autograf, CB Mix, DJ White Shadow, Kaskade, and Starrah, which effectively infused our music creation engine with their signature sounds and production techniques.

“There is a way to create disruptive technological advances in AI while keeping the integrity of artists’ rights at the forefront.”

This was the first of many planned collaborations. Our subscribers are loving this new product and the artists and other rightsholders are benefitting from a new income stream.

The major label groups are making big moves in AI as well. These companies have massive catalogs of dormant content that can be monetized in brand-new ways. Warner Music has partnered with the Estate of legendary French artist, Edith Piaf, on innovative and groundbreaking AI technology which will recreate her voice and image for an animated biopic.

Universal Music Group teamed up with Endel to create new versions of songs from the record group’s biggest artists. 3LAU and Grimes collaborated via AI to create a set of NFTs that sold in minutes. The innovation is happening and the smart rightsholders are ensuring that these new AI models will benefit artists and songwriters. This is the way forward.

This is only the beginning of an enormously exciting AI revolution. But as an industry, we are at a crossroads. We can choose the darker path and build our future on the backs of artists who have no way to get paid for their work.

Or we can go towards the light and build a future that ensures artists, songwriters, and other rightsholders all have a seat at the table. For me, this is a very easy choice.Music Business Worldwide

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