UPDATED 18:51 EST / AUGUST 21 2023


YouTube announces AI music principles, launches new incubator program

Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube today published a set of artificial intelligence music principles and launched the YouTube Music AI Incubator, starting with artists and others from Universal Music Group N.V.

YouTube’s AI music principles are claimed to be rooted in the service’s commitment to collaborate with the music industry alongside “bold and responsible innovation in the space.” The principles seem to be inspired by similar principles for AI announced by Google in 2018.

The first principle is “AI is here and we will embrace it responsibly together with our music partners.” YouTube argues that as generative AI delivers new forms of creativity, it wants to work with its partners in the music industry to agree to build on and responsibly embrace AI, with a goal to “empower creativity in a way that enhances our joint pursuit of responsible innovation.” That’s a bland motherhood-like statement if there ever was one.

The second principle, “AI is ushering in a new age of creative expression, but it must include appropriate protections and unlock opportunities for music partners who decide to participate,” hints at what this is really about — making sure the big music companies don’t miss out on the action.

YouTube then claims the second principle is about continuing its record of “protecting the creative work of artists on YouTube.” Artists in this context refer to record company-signed music artists, not YouTube creators.

Principle three reads, “We’ve built an industry-leading trust and safety organization and content policies. We will scale those to meet the challenges of AI.” Arguably the most interesting of the three principles, YouTube claims that this is about applying established safeguards to AI-generated content, including challenges to trademark and copyright abuse, misinformation, spam and more.

YouTube then claims that AI can also be used to identify this sort of content and hence the stream video service will continue to invest in AI to protect viewers, creators and others to keep the platform safe behind the scenes.

Although the announcement today was more focused on the music aspect, the principles, particularly the third one, are more general and may hint at a possible broader crackdown on all AI-generated content on the YouTube platform, not music alone.

Alongside the principles, YouTube also announced its AI Music Incubator, a program said to bring together “some of today’s most innovative artists, songwriters and producers to help inform YouTube’s approach to generative AI in music.”

The incubator starts with UMG artists, including Anitta, Björn Ulvaeus, d4vd, Don Was, Juanes, Louis Bell, Max Richter, Rodney Jerkins, Rosanne Cash, Ryan Tedder, Yo Gotti and the Estate of Frank Sinatra. How the Estate of Frank Sinatra counts as one of today’s “most innovative artists” is unknown, even if he was a fantastic singer before he died in 1998.

Björn Ulvaeus, who is a member of ABBA, which was last big in the 1970s, seems to have joined to learn more about AI. “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,” Ulvaeus said. “I believe that the more I understand, the better equipped I’ll be to advocate for and to help protect the rights of my fellow human creators.”

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