Spotify Boss Daniel Ek: AI-Made Music Here to Stay, but with Limits


September 26, 2023, 10:00 GMT

Tech News Team

Spotify Boss Daniel Ek: AI-Made Music Here to Stay, but with Limits

In a recent interview with the BBC, Spotify's CEO, Daniel Ek, made a significant announcement regarding the platform's stance on AI-generated music. Earlier this year, Spotify had garnered attention for pulling a track featuring AI-cloned voices of popular artists Drake and The Weeknd. Ek's statement sheds light on Spotify's approach to AI in music and sets the stage for a nuanced debate within the industry. In this article, we delve into Ek's remarks and explore the implications of Spotify's position on AI-created music.

Three Buckets of AI Use in Music

Ek's comments reveal that he sees three distinct categories or "buckets" when it comes to AI use in music:

    1. Tools for Enhancement: Ek believes that certain AI tools, such as auto-tune, which enhance the quality of music, are entirely acceptable. These tools help artists refine their work, ultimately benefiting the industry and listeners.
    2. Mimicking Artists: A contentious issue arises when AI is used to mimic artists, creating music that impersonates human performers without their consent. Spotify stands firmly against this practice, emphasizing the importance of respecting artists' creative expressions.
    3. Influenced by Existing Artists: The middle ground between the two extremes presents a more complicated scenario. Ek acknowledges that music created by AI, while influenced by existing artists, does not directly impersonate them. This zone blurs the line between imitation and originality, leaving room for debate.

Challenges in Addressing AI in Music

Ek's statement reflects the industry's ongoing struggle to navigate the evolving landscape of AI in music. While there is consensus on the need to protect artists' creative integrity, drawing clear boundaries in the middle ground remains challenging. The delicate balance between innovation and imitation raises questions about the ethical use of AI in the creative process.

Artists' Concerns and the Threat of AI

Notably, artists have increasingly voiced their concerns about AI's intrusion into the creative industries. Last month, Irish musician Hozier expressed his apprehension, questioning whether AI truly meets the definition of art. The controversy surrounding the AI-cloned voices of Drake and The Weeknd in the song "Heart on My Sleeve" exemplifies the threat that AI poses to artists. Neither of the artists was aware of their cloned versions being used, underscoring the importance of protecting their work.

Spotify's Vigilance and Challenges

Spotify's commitment to addressing AI-related issues is evident. The platform actively monitors and removes content that violates its policies, such as artificially inflated streaming figures through bots. Ek highlights the risk of malicious actors trying to game the system by impersonating renowned artists like Madonna. To counter such challenges, Spotify maintains a substantial team dedicated to these issues.

Spotify's Podcasting Ambitions and High-Profile Figures

Shifting gears, Ek also discussed Spotify's significant investments in podcasts. The platform has been attracting high-profile figures like Michelle and Barack Obama and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. However, not all endeavors have yielded the expected results. The $25 million deal with Harry and Meghan delivered just 12 episodes over two and a half years, raising questions about the return on investment. Ek admits that some podcasting initiatives have succeeded, while others have fallen short.

Regulatory Discussions and the Tech Giant Challenge

Daniel Ek's visit to the UK had regulatory discussions at its core. Spotify has expressed support for the incoming Online Safety Bill, aimed at making the internet safer for children, and the ongoing Digital Markets Bill, which aims to enhance competition by scrutinizing tech giants. Ek has been a vocal critic of the policies of Apple and Google's app stores, which charge commissions on in-app purchases. Spotify argues that these fees eat into their profits, potentially leading to closure.

The Ongoing Battle with Apple

Spotify's battle with Apple over app store commissions is not new. In 2020, Spotify lodged a complaint with the European Commission (EC) against Apple, alleging that it violated EU competition rules. Although the EC scaled back its objections in February, the final ruling is pending. Apple, meanwhile, continues to work with the EC, emphasizing that the majority of European developers fall within the lower commission bracket.

Daniel Ek's recent statement on AI-generated music underscores the complexity of the issue and the need for nuanced guidelines in the music industry. While AI can enhance music and creativity, it also poses challenges related to imitation and ethics. Spotify's commitment to protecting artists and maintaining a vibrant music ecosystem is evident, as is its determination to navigate regulatory challenges and competition from tech giants. As the music industry grapples with the evolving role of AI, Ek's words serve as a critical contribution to the ongoing debate.

COMPANY: Spotify