New US bill would help independent artists negotiate with streaming platforms

A newly revised version of the Protect Working Musicians Act, which was introduced by Representative Deborah Ross of North Carolina, may allow independent musicians to negotiate with both streaming services and AI developers.

As reported by Billboard, the new version of the bill will grant musicians the opportunity to discuss “fairer rates and terms for the use of their music” with the creators behind AI-generated music. This is in addition to Rep. Ted Deutch’s original bill which aimed to give independent artists the space to “collectively bargain for royalty rates” with major streaming services without the risk of antitrust laws obstructing their actions.

Many artists, both independent or major label singed, remain unprotected from streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube. Compensation to the artists from these platform tends to be unfair with independent artists having to accept the rates given without being able to collectively negotiate for better terms.

Currently, independent musicians who may want to discuss higher payouts and safeguards for their work run the risk of violating antitrust laws due to them being classified as “independent contractors.” Because of this classification, they are not granted the same legal protections as workers classified as employees.

The bill’s strong emphasis on protection against AI due to viral tracks such as ‘Heart On My Sleeve’ which is an AI-generated song that mimicked the voices of Drake and The Weeknd.

“AI threatens the creator — finding the person or entity that has co-opted your work and turned it into something else and then going after them is so onerous,” Ross said. “That’s one of the reasons for this bill — to allow people to do this collaboratively. We need to do this sooner than later. We’re seeing this threat every single day.”

In the UK, The Council of Music Makers (CMM) published five fundamental rules that they want companies to embrace when it comes to developing music AI technologies.

“We all recognise that AI presents opportunities for the music business. However, the rights of music-makers – including artists, musicians, songwriters and studio producers – must be respected by technology companies and rights-holders as music AI models are trained and new AI-powered products and services are developed,” read a statement by the CMM, explaining the importance of the five fundamentals.

One of the most prominent artists to speak out against the method is Bad Seeds frontman Nick Cave, who has previously described the prospect as a “grotesque mockery of what it is to be human” and told platforms such as ChatGPT to “fuck off and leave songwriting alone”.

Others who have criticised it include Sting, who said AI “doesn’t impress” him and that songwriters will have to defend “our human capital against AI”, as well as Stereophonics frontman Kelly Jones, who said that art is about “a real person’s expression”.

Grimes was more open to the concept, however, permitting fans to use her voice in their own AI projects – provided they share the royalties with her. Liam Gallagher also seemed pretty impressed with the AI-made “Lost” Oasis album earlier this year, describing the finished product as “mega”.

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