Viewing: AI - View all posts

Licensed to Stream? Clearing Rights Can Be Tricky In the 'Wild West' Livestream Age 

Licensed to Stream? Clearing Rights Can Be Tricky In the 'Wild West' Livestream Age

Many of us are, or have musician friends who are, performing cover tunes live on social media platforms as a means to generate income, bring some joy, and stave off cabin fever! Our world needs our live music right now! It keeps us connected, it helps us to feel, to express, to remain in touch with our hearts and humanity. But performing copyrighted material can also be risky because copyright law clearly states that permission from copyright owners must be secured in advance through a variety of licenses. Further complicating the matter is that not all the powers that be can even agree on which licenses must be secured for which purposes! But wait! There's more! Some social media platforms already have licenses in place, while others do not, or have only partial permissions from publishers and copyright owners. The bottom line is that a musician's live online show can get shut down or worse, fines might be imparted!

Clear as mud? 

So how can we keep the music playing while also avoiding copyright infringement issues? This article orginally published in Billboard Magazine can help guide.

With venues closed, more artists are turning to livestream performances — some without the proper licenses. "There's probably a lot of infringement going on." 

To make sure acts like Elton John, Lady Gaga and Billie Eilish could perform the songs they wanted during Global Citizen's April 18 "One World: Together at Home" concert, Julie Wadley and her team worked 12-hour days for over a week. "I woke up early, I worked late," says the owner of Say Yes! Music, who cleared the rights for 130 songs so the event could be streamed live and shown on demand all over the world. 

Over a month into the pandemic shutdown, livestream music performances have evolved from cool curiosities into an essential way for artists to reach fans, and sometimes even make money. Besides the Global Citizen event, which raised $127 million from mostly corporate sponsors for food banks and coronavirus-related causes, Diplo and Major Lazer have performed over a dozen "Corona World Tours" on YouTube for between 17,000 and 88,000 viewers each. A Bandsintown survey showed that almost three-quarters of fans say they'll continue to watch such performances once real-world venues reopen. But as Wadley's workload shows, clearing the necessary rights can be complicated. 

Live performances online, like those at traditional clubs, need public performance licenses from collecting societies like ASCAP and BMI, which platforms like YouTube and Twitch have. Making those same performances available on demand on a continual basis also requires mechanical licenses from publishers — as well as synch licenses if video is involved. (DJs also have to get similar rights to recordings.) 

Mechanical licenses vary in cost: "A couple hundred bucks to a couple thousand bucks, depending on the nature of their use," says Barry Slotnick, a Loeb & Loeb attorney who represents artists, songwriters, labels and publishers. But they require the performer to track down the publisher, which isn't always easy. 

The law isn't always entirely clear, either. Some rights holders believe that all livestream performances involve making a copy, and thus require mechanical rights, or synch rights in the case of video. "It's like the Wild West out there, and some of this is evolving," adds Ben McLane, a music attorney who has represented numerous artists and labels. "You don't always know which of these licenses are applicable or necessary." 

Some of the big platforms, including YouTube and Facebook (which owns Instagram), have the necessary licenses with almost all publishers, so artists don't have to worry about what songs they perform. Other platforms don't. "You've got companies like YouTube and Facebook checking all the boxes, and there are some that say, 'What boxes?' " says a label source. Twitch, which focuses on livestreaming, although not only with music, said in a statement that it "requires users to stream content they have the necessary rights to stream — for example, music they've written or licensed." If that's not the case, rights holders can issue takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. 

The complexity of the issues can be intimidating. If an online live performance requires a public performance license, and an on-demand stream involves both a public performance license and a mechanical license, what licenses do time-delayed live performances require? "It can be a thicket," says Eleanor Lackman, who handles music litigation for Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. "There's probably a lot of infringement going on. We've had this flood of use with the stay-at-home orders, and there has to be a lot out there that isn't licensed." 

So far, there haven't been many legal threats — because livestreaming isn't yet a big business and labels and publishers don't want to interfere with their artists trying to make money during a crisis. A representative for a well-known singer who recently performed a livestream says the team didn't bother to clear rights. "We just did it and no one has come after us," says the representative. "No one has contacted us about clearing anything, either." 

Clearing rights can be even more complicated when DJs incorporate snippets of existing recordings into performances. For a recent livestream, Diplo played parts of recordings like Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up," in addition to his own compositions. Since those performances are available on demand, his team has to clear the relevant rights with both publishers (of the compositions) and labels (which own most recordings). In this case, Diplo's manager, Andrew McInnes of TMWRK, managed to pull it off. "The big companies have been helpful and supportive of what we've been doing," says McInnes. "Pre-coronavirus, it was complicated to do things like this, but everyone's working together to keep some positive music experience out in the world right now." 

Publishers say they're doing their best to streamline their licensing processes during the anxious period of no concert revenue. "We're trying to clear as quickly as possible and be as accommodating as possible because of the status of the world," says Kelly Baden, vp worldwide licensing operations at Concord, which administers the publishing for the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization and Leonard Bernstein's catalog. "We have definitely had discussions about, 'How do we take this out of our normal process and expedite this?' " 

As livestreaming grows, however, rights holders will probably balance this kind of goodwill with their desire to get a piece of a promising new business. "If I'm Beyoncé and I say, 'Everybody show up,' and we're going to see her and Jay-Z and the kids playing in their living room, if I were a [label or publishing] executive, would I call them and say, 'I know you had to cancel your tour, and I know that's a loss of income for you, but I want a piece of this'? That's a tough call," says a publishing source. "I'm guessing the executives would say, 'Wait a second, this could be the future.'" 

This article originally appeared in the April 25, 2020 issue of Billboard.

Could a Scalable Curation System be a Way Out of Our Industry’s Data Mess?  

Could a Scalable Curation System be a Way Out of Our Industry’s Data Mess?

It seems almost unimaginable that the problem of matching copyrights to copyright owners in order to enable accurate, streamlined, expedient, and reliable royalty payments to those to whom they are due is one of the largest problems facing the music industry in our current technologically advanced global community... until one begins to peel back the complex layers of historical lack of music industry record-keeping, incongruent global laws surrounding royalty issues, and the avarice-fueled corruption so prevalent in an industry that generates billions of dollars worldwide. Add to these issues the fact that there is little motivation from some organizations around the world that benefit financially by opposing solutions to the problem!

While many theories have been floated about how artificial intelligence and blockchain could be the cure for rights holders’ and creatives' financial woes, neither of these would untangle the industry’s rats nest of data, but a scalable curation system might. 

Could a scalable system offer a solution out of the music industry's data rat's nest? Could it be put in place in spite of those who would stand to lose ill-gotten gain so easily gleaned and hidden within the current mess? Check at this article by Vasja Veber, Co-Founder and Business Development Director for Viberate and let me know your thoughts.

Scalable Curation System Is Possible And A Way Out Of Our Industry’s Data Mess 

If you’ve talked to anyone in the music or entertainment space over the last ten years, you’re likely to have heard complaints and laments about the state of data in the industry. Though recording and composition metadata are often at the center of these woes in music–they are, after all, how creatives and rights holders get paid–other slices of the music business are faring even worse when it comes to data. 

There’s lots of gushing about everything from AI to blockchain, technologies that many of us take very seriously, but at the bottom of the problem is just one big, tough-to-untangle data mess. 

The nature of the mess may sound familiar to many outside of music and live entertainment. The data tend to be of very poor quality; you don’t actually know who came into your club or event, as ticketing information is appallingly inaccurate, for example. Data are very dispersed, scattered across socials, retail sites, streaming platforms, and other proprietary services. Worst of all for this machine learning-powered era, some of the early indicators of what’s going to be big–in the live music case, what’s taking off at certain small clubs, smaller tastemaker festivals, or key parties–may not be part of the mainstream data that’s easy to integrate via existing APIs. 

These issues find specific form in the music and entertainment industry, but have relevance to a wide range of businesses, from hospitality and event organizing to DTC and other data-reliant retail. And in live music, as in many other realms of commerce and marketing, addressing them demands a serious look at how to build a team to cultivate accurate information globally, which in turn requires a scalable approach that empowers individual data curators. 

To do anything with data, you have to find and refine the necessary sources for input, the data points that actually say something about the business, community, or scene. There are so many options out there in most cases that it’s tempting to rely on scraping plus a few APIs from relevant platforms. Another common approach is to simply set things up for crowdsourcing, and let the communities or customers fill in the data, yet that can quickly turn from exciting approach into moderation hell. Ideally, you want to combine a few firehose-like streams of data with important input from users who are incentivized to do a better-than-shoddy job at contributing information. In short, you need to tame what’s out there in the wild. 

Only humans can tame this wilderness and make it productive, people specially trained to weed out poor or irrelevant data. There’s too much complexity, nuance, and regional variation at this point to find automated solutions. That’s why we knew, as we tackled the data mess in our business, that we needed curators, real humans who knew what looked reasonable and what seemed off. Because we’re growing a large network of profiles, crossing the million mark recently, we also knew we needed enough humans to do the work well, and needed them to have certain knowledge and skills. 

These skills were determined by the focus we adopted early on. We knew that aiming to become something vague yet all-encompassing (“the Facebook for music,” as many startups liked to bandy around at some point) would make our site useless. Furthermore, we saw a massive gap in the live event realm. So we focused on live music and how other platforms and data points speak to live music scenes. There’s a lot to be said for niche approaches, and when you want to create industry-leading data, being a generalist isn’t necessarily a logical choice. 

In fact, our industry, like many others, has seen a proliferation of vanity metrics in the digital era, as well as metric fraud like purchasing, follows and streams. To counteract these forces, we homed in on unexpected metrics and data points that tell stories helpful to our clients and users, who range from fans to festival organizers and booking agents. For example, we surface which artists of note are following one another, something hard to figure out when scanning an artists’ thousands or millions of Twitter followers. This can show unanticipated connections and suggests potential collaborations and partnerships. 

We also made sure to solve one of the industry’s toughest data problems, by following one simple rule. One artist = one profile. It sounds ridiculously obvious, but even the world’s leading streaming platform doesn’t follow that rule. The only way to achieve that level of precision is by adding a human touch. A lot of times we have to defend our claim that we have one of the largest artist databases in the world, currently just shy of 500,000 profiles. We hear things like, “yeah, but I know this service that has 2 million.” They might claim this, but if you go to that particular service and type in “Tiesto”, you’ll get 10 or even more profiles for the same artist. From a data perspective, this renders such service useless, because having data scattered through multiple profiles for the same artist doesn’t let you engage in any kind of data-related analysis. It’s like one person having multiple social security numbers. 

Along with finding these simple, but hard-to-solve data pain points, we also looked for benchmarks and metrics that made sense to our community. For example, we realized that the price of a standard-sized beer was a great benchmark for the overall cost of a festival or venue, guiding music fans to find the right experience for their budgets and helping event operators see how they measure up to the competition. People note the cost of a pint, our curators validate it, and we can then show a meaningful data point to our users. Other industries may find other quirky yet extremely telling metrics that can only be revealed by well-cultivated data. 

On top of right-scaled humans and data that actually matters, you need a large dose of flexibility. To find enough skilled people with a broad grounding in pop culture and strong local knowledge, we had to get creative. We found lots of talented and qualified people in our home region of Eastern Europe. We recruited people from around the world and used crypto to pay those in unstable regions who had the skills we needed. For example, we found a good group of curators in Venezuela, where inflation almost instantly destroys fiat currency values and where banking is chaotic, to say the least. By keeping our focus reasonable, we can make their jobs reasonable, reducing curation or moderation burnout. 

These approaches need to be tailored to your industry, but the human-machine balance in cultivating quality, actionable data should be your goal. It’s allowed us to raise the bar on insights into the live music business, insights we expect to continue to grow richer as time passes. A scalable curation system is possible, with the right mix of openmindedness, tech tools, and smart people.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE MADE A SONG IN THE STYLE OF TRAVIS SCOTT. IT SOUNDS UNNERVINGLY LIKE TRAVIS SCOTT 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE MADE A SONG IN THE STYLE OF TRAVIS SCOTT. IT SOUNDS UNNERVINGLY LIKE TRAVIS SCOTT

My friend and copyright expert, E. Michael Harrington recently sat on the panel to address, "How is AI enabling authors to explore new market possibilities in music?" presented by the US Copyright Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization. AI is raising some very interesting questions with respect to music creation, ownership, royalties, and lawsuits. I suspect Michael would have an interesting take on the following article posted by Music Business Worldwide. Enjoy!

Originally Posted  TIM INGHAM of Music Business Worldwide

This. Is. Wild. 

A US-based digital agency, Space150, recently thought it would conduct a fun experiment: model Travis Scott’s sonic and vocal style via Artificial Intelligence, and see what original production AI might subsequently invent. 

Every lyric and melody you hear in the below, says Space150, is entirely created by AI. 

The track is called Jack Park Canny Dope Man. 

Executive creative director at Space150, Ned Lampert, told AdWeek: “We were sort of fascinated with like, ‘What if we tried to make a song – like an actual good song – by using AI and basically creative directing AI?’” 

Lampert said the agency chose Travis Scott because “he is just such a unique artist”. (He’s not that unique anymore, though, is he – because he’s basically been cloned by a robot.) 

Granted, the lyrics from TravisBott (yes, that’s literally what they call him) meander into the realm of the absurd. For example, as annotated by Genius

“She got the crew on top of my chain (It’s lit); Wasted in the street like a pain (Straight up); You see the diamonds in the light of chain; They say I fucked the bad bitch like I’m rain; I was the bitch on the plane (Straight up).” 

Abject nonsense. 

But on first listen, with those trademark Travis-ism’s (“It’s lit”; “Straight up”) thrown in there, your fair-weather fan might have to do a double, triple, quadruple take. 

And then they might just assume that a human being had skilfully ripped off Travis Scott… and that Jack Park Canny Dope Man deserves a spot on next week’s Rap Caviar. 

Apparently, Space150 started out feeding real-life Travis Scott lyrics into a ‘text generator model’ for two weeks until it began creating its own rhymes. (These rhymes were initially food-obsessed, but got smarter as time went on.) 

Then, according to AdWeek, the agency “used additional neural network programs to create melodies and percussion arrangements to accompany them”. 

What plays below is the result of this experiment. 

It’s kind of jaw-dropping. 

But – in a music industry where barely a week seems to go by without a plagiarism lawsuit landing in the headlines – perhaps not completely in a good way. 

Earlier this month, a new Los-Angeles based, “AI-enabled” indie label called SNAFU Records has launched with $2.9 million in seed funding. 

The company claims to be “the first full-service record label built on AI-music discovery” and is operated by “technologists, A&Rs, producers, and creatives” including those previously employed by Universal, Sony/ATV, BMG, and Capitol, and who worked with the likes of Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, and David Guetta.