YouTube announces incubator plan to tackle AI-generated music


Google has launched an AI Incubator programme, in partnership with record label Universal Music, in an attempt to work out how to deal with AI-generated music on YouTube.

YouTube CEO Neal Mohan says the “incubator will help inform YouTube’s approach” to AI, and that it is built on three principles.

These are that YouTube is largely pro-AI, that it wants to build protections for artists and other creative communities, and that these will be built on a framework of “industry-leading trust and safety organisation and content policies”.

Mohan references Content ID when talking about these. This is YouTube’s current system to identify when copyrighted content has been used in a potentially inappropriate manner in uploaded videos, much to the chagrin of YouTube content creators, but to the relief of the recording industry.

Content ID effectively already uses a form of AI to see when the “fingerprints” of copyrighted content are in an uploaded video, but Mohan claims new forms will be used to improve the system.

“Generative AI systems may amplify current challenges like trademark and copyright abuse, misinformation, spam, and more,” says Mohan. “But AI can also be used to identify this sort of content, and we’ll continue to invest in the AI-powered technology that helps us protect our community of viewers, creators, artists, and songwriters.”

YouTube parent company Google is currently working on its own AI music-generation system, called MusicLM. It lets people create music tracks simply by describing the results, much like image-generation tools.

Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge sings from the same carefully curated hymn sheet as Mohan.

He says the aim is to “establish effective tools, incentives, and rewards — as well as rules of the road — that enable us to limit AI’s potential downside while promoting its promising upsides”.

However, we don’t have any idea what this will actually mean in concrete terms for viewers and YouTubers — not yet, anyway.

“In the months ahead, we’ll share more about specific technologies, monetisation opportunities, and policies we’re developing,” says YouTube CEO Mohan.

What do musicians think about AI music?

The boldest members of this entire enterprise are the musicians who have agreed to consult with YouTube on how to deal with AI-generated music.

They include composer Max Richter, ABBA member Björn Ulvaeus, Grammy award-winning producer Louis Bell, Rosanne Cash, and the estate of Frank Sinatra.

“While some may find my decision controversial, I’ve joined this group with an open mind and purely out of curiosity about how an AI model works and what it could be capable of in a creative process,” says Ulvaeus.

Ulvaeus has previously opined on the potential of AI-generated music, calling it “mind-boggling” on the Rick Beato YouTube channel.

Meanwhile, Richter suggests co-operating is important in order to be part of the conversation. “Unless artists are part of this process, there is no way to ensure that our interests will be taken into account,” he says.

“We have to be in this conversation, or our voices won’t be heard.”

On the other side of the debate, singer-songwriter Hozier suggests he would strike over the use of AI music, as part of a Newsnight interview.

“It can’t create something based on a human experience. So I don’t know if it meets the definition of art,” he says.