AI has already revolutionized the music industry. AI-generation tools allow creators to generate royalty-free music, and generative AI streaming products offer never-ending mood-based playlists for users to enjoy. AI-generated songs using “soundalikes” and well-known songs of popular artists being sung in the AI voice of another have been a hot topic in the news for two reasons. They sound highly accurate and have encouraged users to make their own, new versions, but there are moral and ethical concerns around them and it has inspired interesting discussions. Companies are having to assess how best to protect artists, copyrights and revenue streams from the threat of having their voices, and music stolen by generative AI tools.
Recently Sony Music’s digital chief called for a US-wide publicity right through which artists can protect their voices so they can stop the unauthorized use of their vocals through AI. Currently, there are tens of thousands of takedown notices seeking the removal of unauthorized voice clones, but the digital platforms are using legal loopholes to delay dealing with them. This story is just one part of a much larger conversation that needs to happen around imitation, copyright and fair use when it comes to AI.
The uptake of AI in mainstream music creation won't be instant but at some point creators will start putting more faith into smart tools that allow them to generate music through these new means for use in videos. Some creators are already seeing the benefits – chords and melodies can be created by simply inputting into an AI, and these tools will only get more sophisticated. However, once created, that music will still need to be licensed, and there will be commercial models that give users access to the tools and/or licensing opportunities for the music created by said tool.
In the metaverse, we can look forward to seeing music collaboration spaces and music production event areas or venues. Generative AI is useful for creating ‘music stems’ which splits music into their component parts, and building a sort of catalog of ‘music elements’ that can then be used by others, collaboratively, to start making new and original music. This is a relatively new phenomenon and gives creators the opportunity to create and remix tracks to their heart’s content.
An AI can churn out new beats, melodies, riffs, and instrumental sounds easily and continuously, and people will get together to create music on the fly, and that will require AI generative tools at some scale. We’ll see the introduction of musical skins, where Avatars have their own personalized soundtrack or music identifier. How do I know someone entered the room? Well, I just heard their music handle to signify they’re here. Like boxers have ring walks, there'll be a version of that somewhere in the metaverse.
Music metaverses and venues, and metaverse platforms based around music creation already exist and there are many more on the way. Pixelynx, Deadmau5’s music-based metaverse gaming platform, is a prime example of how to get things right. Within a year of launching their first game experience, the company was acquired by Animoca Brands, a company with a broad portfolio of web3, blockchain and traditional games and a huge web3 holding company. Other examples include Roblox which has hosted highly successful in-game concerts with the likes of David Guetta and Lil Nas X, and just last year Avakin Life hosted an in-game concert with virtual popstar POLAR. All of these concerts were hugely successful and brought in hundreds of thousands of music fans.
Only those living under a rock for the past 3 years could have missed the enormous success Epic Games have had with their in-game music experiences in Fortnite with artists like Eminem, Ariana Grande, Marshmello and more. Epic has committed to evolving music experiences in Fortnite with impressive ambition, most notably acquiring Harmonix Studios in 2021 (the company behind the world’s first billion-dollar game franchises in Guitar Hero and Rock Band) and the subsequent launch of the immersive music experience ‘Sparks’ within Fortnite.
All of these experiences, and all of these companies, represent enormous opportunities for the music industry. It’s important to note, however, that most scalable digital opportunities for the music industry going forward will require a micro-licensing commercial model and innovative tech, either to enable licensing or to protect end users. That's where music democratization tools for the world's creators are perfectly positioned. We all know that the metaverse is inevitable. We've all been in it in some description as early as 15 years ago when we experimented with virtual meetings, and experiences like ‘The Sims’ and ‘Second Life’ became popular. But as time goes on, it will just start to play a bigger and bigger role in the day-to-day lives of future generations.
With metaverse graphics and experiences improving as more focus is put on it, so do the expectations on how it sounds. When you visit music-themed virtual venues you may hear unrecognizable stock music that’s not adding to the experience and it’s no longer immersive. It all comes back to the complexities of music licensing, but it also tells me there's an opportunity here and that opportunity is almost always taken by stock music companies on day one. Generative AI will add real value here but mainstream, popular music will always play a major part in helping create atmosphere, nostalgia and engagement.
I see the role of music licensing businesses here as the voice to help bridge that gap, exploring more ways we can coalesce in this ever-changing digital world. With the fragmented music industry and all the complexities around rights, we’re responsible for packaging it up in a way that suits songwriters and artists, but also for the betterment of the environment and that involves us building technology and bespoke commercial models.
In the physical world, there are endless studies around how the right music choices in store can affect purchasing patterns, and how different BPMs can generate different behaviors. It goes without saying that everything built in the metaverse is essentially a meet-up spot of some description, whether it's a retail outlet, a bar, a club environment, or just a place to hang out with friends. Most places in the real world use commercial music to create atmosphere, to create engagement, and to encourage dwell time. And if the metaverse has any chance of succeeding, it needs to be able to replicate that real-life experience.
The metaverse is very early on in its development, but it will eventually get there. And so the opportunity for the music industry is posing questions to creators like, ‘How can we help the metaverse sound great?’, ‘How can we all benefit from that?’, ‘How can we enable it by building proprietary technology and creating viable commercial models?’ and ‘How can we benefit committed music fans and artists alike?’.
When we see an opportunity like that, we ask, how can we solve this problem? What's the opportunity for everyone involved? And often you'll find that there's a win-win for everyone. When you see a win for everyone in a value chain, it becomes a no-brainer.
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