Apr 2, 2024 - Technology

Top musicians among hundreds warning against replacing human artists with AI

Illustration of a robot carrying a boombox on its shoulder.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

More than 200 musical artists — including heavy hitters such as Billie Eilish, Katy Perry and Smokey Robinson — have penned an open letter to AI developers, tech firms and digital platforms to "cease the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to infringe upon and devalue the rights of human artists."

Why it matters: It's one of the strongest positions the music industry has collectively taken to advocate for artists in the AI era.

Between the lines: Unlike other advocacy efforts from creators around AI, this letter specifically addresses tech firms about the concerns of musical artists, such as replicating artist's voices, using their work to train AI models without compensation and diluting royalty pools that are paid out to artists.

  • Jen Jacobsen, executive director at The Artist Rights Alliance (ARA), the trade group representing the artists signing the letter, told Axios, "We're not thinking about legislation here."
  • "We're kind of calling on our technology and digital partners to work with us to make this a responsible marketplace, and to keep the quality of the music sound, and not to replace human artists."

Details: The letter, penned by dozens of well-known musicians within ARA, specifically calls on tech firms and AI developers to stop the "predatory use of AI to steal professional artists' voices and likenesses, violate creators' rights, and destroy the music ecosystem."

  • Signatories include Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, Nicki Minaj, Camila Cabello, Kacey Musgraves, Jon Batiste, Ja Rule, Jason Isbell, Pearl Jam, Sam Smith and dozens more spanning every musical genre.

"We call on all AI developers, technology companies, platforms and digital music services to pledge that they will not develop or deploy AI music- generation technology, content or tools that undermine or replace the human artistry of songwriters and artists or deny us fair compensation for our work," the letter reads.

  • The letter goes on to acknowledge that there are ways AI — when used responsibly — can advance human creativity. But it argues that some platforms and AI developers broadly are using the technology "to sabotage creativity and undermine artists, songwriters, musicians and rights holders."

The big picture: The music industry is starting to back bills that would protect their work from AI copyright issues, but those efforts are mostly targeted to lawmakers.

  • Earlier this year, hundreds of artists signed a letter from the Human Artistry Campaign urging Congress to sign the The No AI FRAUD Act, a broader bill designed to protect against AI-generated fakes and forgeries.
  • Many artists submitted personal testimonies supporting the Elvis Act in Tennessee, the first state bill to address voice, image and likeness protections for its residents against AI.
  • The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which represents major record labels, also supported that bill.
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