Lawsuits won’t stop change from coming, so it’s better to learn everything we can about new technology
Google Bard, the ubiquitous search engine’s answer to Microsoft’s breakout Bing Chat, was recently asked what it thinks generative AI is good at. Its verbatim answer, “tasks that require creativity,” isn’t particularly music to the ears of artists and others in the entertainment industry.
Bard specifically self-identified its top skill sets to be “creating art and music, writing stories and poetry, designing products and services, generating new ideas.” In other words, AI has its sights directly on our creative community across all of its sectors and directly threatens demand for our works and our jobs. Case in point writers and authors. OpenAI, the company that created ChatGPT and powers Bing Chat, just published a study that concludes that writers are 100% exposed to AI dislocation.
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AI already pumps out millions of new songs (Boomy users have created 13 million-plus songs, reportedly 13% of all recorded music). It writes articles, novels and scripts (LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman just published his book “Impromptu” by collaborating with GPT-4). It churns out endless graphics and art (Midjourney and Stability AI are leaders). It even creates full videos based on just a few words of text (Runway’s Gen-2 generative video model is coming soon). Even major artists like David Guetta are using AI to replicate the voices of other major artists like Eminem in their songs, calling him Emin-AI-em.
And that’s only four months after OpenAI unleashed ChatGPT into a largely naïve and unsuspecting world. So just imagine the power of AI one year from now. Or five years? Ten? The truth is we can’t.
But we must try. We, the entertainment industry, must find ways to keep humanity front and center in the art of creativity. Our art, our audiences, and our jobs depend on it. This isn’t some anti-tech rant or form of charity. It’s a fundamental belief that our creative souls cannot be matched by code-churning machines. There is an idiosyncratic artisanry, a craft to all creative works.
Knowledge is power, but knowing the threat of AI and the potential of humanity isn’t enough. Prioritizing humanity takes active education and work. Part of the solution is to accept our daunting new AI reality – to learn the language of AI, experiment with it, and leverage its immense power to our advantage. For example, AI may help break through writer’s block without overtaking the art and personality of writing itself.
Equally important is activism. To that end, 40 different entertainment organizations announced a new coalition called the Human Artistry Campaign at SXSW two weeks ago. Its mission is “to ensure artificial intelligence technologies are developed and used in ways that support human culture and artistry – and not ways that replace or erode it.” Notably, just like it did during the last massive technological threat 20-plus years ago when rampant Napster-enabled Internet piracy decimated the music industry, the RIAA is taking center stage now with AI. It is a founding member of the Human Artistry Campaign.
But this time the RIAA has openly acknowledged the AI tech revolution and is proactively seeking solutions, an approach that is fundamentally different from its reactive “shoot first and ask questions later” mass litigation strategy decades ago against peer-to-peer networks and their users. That failed strategy somehow made the music industry the bad guys. Remember the backlash against Metallica for simply condemning the theft of its music? Collective industry activism and education was needed in support of artist livelihoods, but few came to the band’s defense. There’s a lesson to be learned here for these AI times.
Yes, serious copyright infringement issues arise as AI trains itself by “scraping” the vast Internet (I’ve written about this before in TheWrap). But that doesn’t mean that we simply try to litigate AI out of existence. We can’t. While selective litigation certainly can play its part, it was proactive human innovation that ultimately began to show a way out for the music industry. Pioneering companies like Musicmatch (where I served as president and COO) invented better consumer experiences – specifically, easy-to-use on demand streaming – that technology alone couldn’t match and paid the artists and rightsholders to do it.
Steve Jobs and Apple, of course, took the promise of better consumer experiences to entirely new heights with the iPod/iTunes combo pack. Although Apple was the primary beneficiary (as I wrote in a recent column in TheWrap), at least the giant demonstrated that consumers will pay even when they can get things for free. And now 20-plus years later, while piracy certainly hasn’t been eradicated, the music industry just announced its eight consecutive year of growth (9% year over year this time).
Some examples of innovation that point the way include Lore Machine (I featured the company in a recent column). It uses its AI to create entirely new StoryScapes – think graphic novels – from creative projects that had been essentially abandoned, paying participating artists in the process. Another is Adobe. The giant creator software platform just launched Firefly, a new non-infringing tool that trains its AI only with its licensed stock images and public domain works. Meanwhile, Flawless’ and Synthesia’s generative AI creates lip-synced visualizations in multiple languages, opening up a new global audience for international filmmakers by making subtitles a thing of the past.
On the music side, flooding the market with millions of artificially created songs may not be helpful, considering 38 million tracks on music streaming services received zero plays. But AI can also expand demand for songs by actual humans. That’s how new music players should think. Yes, integrate AI. But create entirely new experiences that delight consumers and also pay the artists! Adaptive music is one intriguing concept, assuming artists are on board for real-time remixes. Let’s say you’re a runner. Now you can take your favorite playlist and use AI to rework its tempo to match your running pace. More listening means more royalty payments.
And let’s not forget the obvious opportunities of live music and entertainment, as well as the often overlooked concept of fandom – things still beyond AI’s reach, no matter how hard it tries. In the world of media and entertainment, it’s frequently not just about the creative work itself. Value flows from IRL shared experiences that create lasting memories, real-world access to artists, and the communities created by, and supporting, the artists themselves.
Finally, proactivity means immediate calls for regulation, for basic guardrails, because we certainly can’t bank on the tech industry to regulate itself during this AI arms race where few corporations are rewarded for thoughtfulness, social good, and simple humanity.
The entertainment industry and creative community can continue to thrive in our world of accelerating AI. We gotta believe, and we gotta try. After all, optimism in the face of daunting challenges is a human trait that AI cannot match.
For those of you interested in learning more, visit Peter’s firm Creative Media at creativemedia.biz and follow him on Twitter @pcsathy. And a special note for readers in the entertainment and creative community, I’d like to hear your stories about how you have already used AI for a future story I plan to write. Please send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Csathy is a WrapPRO contributor writing about the intersection between tech and entertainment/media. He's chairman of Creative Media (https://creativemedia.biz/), a boutique media, entertainment and tech business advisory and legal services firm. His monthly “Fearless Media” newsletter (https://fearlessmedia.substack.com/) covers the future of entertainment, media and tech; and his weekly “AI & NFT Legal Update” newsletter (https://ainftlegalupdate.substack.com/) covers the AI and Web3/NFT ecosystems. You can also listen to his “Fearless Media” podcast (https://fearlessmediapodcast.buzzsprout.com/) and follow him on Twitter @pcsathy.