Over 200 Leading Artists Rally Against AI Tech In Call for Responsible Music Innovation

Amid the era of AI, when technology’s rapid evolution often blurs the lines between enhancement and infringement, over 200 artists have banded together in an unprecedented plea for respect and responsibility.

The Artist Rights Alliance has published a scathing open letter, titled “Stop Devaluing Music,” to issue a timely rebuke of AI developers in the music industry. In a clarion call for action, the petition urges tech companies to pledge against releasing generative music tools and technologies that could diminish the human artistry of songwriters and producers.

“Make no mistake, we believe that, when used responsibly, AI has enormous potential to advance human creativity,” the letter asserts.

This acknowledgment of artificial intelligence’s potential underscores the artists’ stance not as anti-innovation, but pro-accountability. Their grievance lies not with the technology itself but with the manner in which it’s currently being deployed by big tech platforms and developers.

The heart of the issue, per the petition, is the irresponsible use of AI that compromises artists’ ability to protect their privacy and intellectual property. It’s a predicament that stems from some of the world’s largest companies taking liberties with AI model “training” based on existing music—without regard for the original creators. This practice not only undermines the intrinsic value of music, but also poses a threat to the livelihood of those who create it.

“Unfortunately, some platforms and developers are employing AI to sabotage creativity and undermine artists, songwriters, musicians and rightsholders,” the letter continues. “When used irresponsibly, AI poses enormous threats to our ability to protect our privacy, our identities, our music and our livelihoods.”

Among the high-profile producers throwing their weight behind the initiative are industry luminaries like Billie Eilish, Metro Boomin, FINNEAS, Hit-Boy and Chase & Status. Their participation, along with superstars the likes of Sam Smith, Kim Petras, J Balvin, Pearl Jam and more, amplifies the petition’s message and highlights the widespread concern among artists of all walks about the future of music creation in the face of advancing AI.

Read the full open letter here.

Sweden's Silent Maestro: The Unseen Artist Behind 650 Aliases and 15 Billion Spotify Streams

Fame is often synonymous with visibility, but Johan Röhr has become one of the streaming era’s most illustrious shadows.

Orchestrating a Spotify discography that outperforms the highest echelons of pop royalty without ever stepping into the spotlight, this Stockholm symphonist has been identified as the mastermind behind over 650 artist aliases on Spotify. Röhr’s compositions have amassed a staggering 15 billion streams, according to The Guardian.

Röhr’s prolific output includes over 2,700 songs. His music, a mainstay on Spotify’s mood-centric playlists, serves as the unseen backdrop to millions of daily lives. Much of the artist’s success is believed to come specifically from editorial instrumental playlists.

Critics argue that the dominance of a few, faceless artists undermines Spotify’s pledge to support small, independent musicians. Financially, Röhr’s windfall from his streaming success isn’t fully known, although his company did report a record-breaking year of 32.7 million kronor ($3 million USD) in the 2022 fiscal year.

In response, a Spotify spokesperson told The Guardian: “There is an increased interest in functional music created to enhance everyday activities such as relaxation, focus, or studying, and these playlists are created to match the listeners’ demand. This type of music typically exists in Spotify’s Focus hub which limits competition with artists from traditional genres of popular music.”

A Third of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment While Working In Music, Report Finds

A new report, which arose from research by the Musicians’ Union and the charitable organization Help Musicians, shines a light on the plight of women working in the music industry in 2024.

Over 2,500 female musicians were surveyed in the “Women Musicians Insight Report,” which suggests that work-related abuse and financial disparities significantly impede the career advancement of women in the music industry. The study found that half of women have experienced gender discrimination and a third have been sexually harassed.

Another finding in the study correlated women’s age and visibility in the music scene. While 47% of musicians ages 16-55 were women, they comprised only 26% of those over the age of 55. Age discrimination was found to occur much more commonly in female musicians versus males.

“The findings of the latest Census report show there’s still so much work to be done to make sure that working as a musician is equitable for all,” said Sarah Woods, the Chief Executive of Help Musicians and Music Minds Matter. “We hope these insights will encourage the industry to continue collaborating to reduce gender-based barriers and ensure gender equity in every part of music.”

“It’s alarming to witness the persistence of gender disparities highlighted by the UK Musicians’ Census, where discrimination, harassment and unequal pay remain prevalent issues faced by women musicians, demanding urgent action,” added Nadia Khan, founder of the nonprofit Women In CTRL. “This pivotal moment presents a unique opportunity for change ahead of the next musicians’ census. It’s vital that the industry makes genuine commitments and takes decisive actions to prevent the recurrence of the same data.”

You can read the full “Women Musicians Insight Report” here.

James Blake Launches New Music Platform, Vault, to Address Streaming Inequity for Artists

After taking a stand against streaming inequities for artists in today’s streaming landscape, James Blake is taking his passion a step further after announcing the launch of Vault, a new platform to share unreleased music with fans via a subscription service.

Vault, Blake says, is a platform for artists to “make money directly from the music they make” by enabling them to cut out intermediaries and avoid contracts that often prevent them from releasing their music. It’s also a workaround to record labels who take the lion’s share of royalties of songs and social media platforms like TikTok, which he said “doesn’t pay properly.”

“About a week ago I went viral with a post about the effects of streaming and TikTok on artists’ ability to support themselves,” Blake said in a video he shared prior to the platform’s launch. “I wanted to give you some figures. This is how much artists make out of streaming: Between $0.0003 and $0.0005 per stream depending on that platform. Which is one million plays equals $3,000. If you’re signed to a label, then imagine that number’s cut at least 50%. And after management cut, which is between 15 to 20%, and taxes and recording overheads, it’s just not sustainable for an artist to focus just on their art.”

Blake also hopes Vault will remove some of the red tape around releasing music and eliminate the need to develop TikTok campaigns to earn recognition. The goal is to redirect musicians’ focus back onto their art rather than forcing them to relinquish their time and creativity in favor of exhaustive—and oftentimes fruitless—marketing.

“Most musicians are not extroverts who are social media and branding geniuses, least of all me. And I wanted to find a way for musicians to make money directly from the music they make, not least to be able to reinvest in the very expensive process of renting studios, hiring musicians, etc.,” he continued. “I’ve spoken to a lot of artists who feel frustrated that so much great music goes unreleased because it doesn’t meet certain requirements or trends.”

Check out Blake’s announcement below and find out more about Vault here.

FOLLOW JAMES BLAKE:

Facebook: facebook.com/jamesblakemusic
X: x.com/jamesblake
Instagram: instagram.com/jamesblake
Spotify: spoti.fi/30HCwq9

Ultra Music Festival Has Generated Over $1 Billion for Miami's Economy, Mayor Says

Miami’s iconic Ultra is proof that music festivals do a lot more than provide entertainment for fans.

As the 25th anniversary of Ultra Music Festival looms in 2025, the event remains a pillar of Miami’s economy, providing an annual economic boon rivaled by few.

The city’s mayor, Francis Suarez, stated that over Ultra’s 24-year tenure, the fest has generated over $1 billion in revenue for the city. That includes the impact to nearby restaurants, boutiques and other retail and service industry businesses.

The 2023 Ultra Music Festival.

Alive Coverage

“For a festival, it’s almost been here for a quarter of a century and has produced over a billion dollars in economic activity,” Suarez told 7 News Miami, adding that Ultra is a “worldwide event.”

Ultra returns this weekend from March 22-24. With a slew of electronic dance music superstars descending on the city to perform as well as festival-goers from around the globe, it’s again bound for a massive year from an economical standpoint.

You can find out more about Ultra via the festival’s official website.

FOLLOW ULTRA MUSIC FESTIVAL:

Facebook: facebook.com/Ultra
X: x.com/ultra
Instagram: instagram.com/ultra

New Penny-Per-Stream Royalty Bill Proposed to Congress

Musicians may soon get a long-awaited raise at the expense of streaming services.

In an effort led by representatives Rashida Tlaib and Jamaal Bowman, the United Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW) have proposed the Living Wage for Musicians Act to Congress. The bill would help ensure that artists are able to build a successful career in the tumultuous age of digital music streaming, according to its authors.

“Streaming has changed the music industry, but it’s leaving countless artists struggling to make ends meet behind,” Tlaib said in a statement. “It’s only right that the people who create the music we love get their fair share, so that they can thrive, not just survive.”

It’s important to note that this is an additional royalty on top of artists’ current royalties. The new royalty would be paid directly to artists, bypassing the tortuous, multi-level corporate filter every penny of streaming revenue goes through.

Platform subscription fees and a 10% levy on non-subscription revenue would fund these royalties, ensuring that artists receive a minimum of one penny per stream, a rate that is significantly higher than what streaming services currently pay. The royalties would be paid out through a central fund and would be subject to an eventual cap on the amount of profit per month.

UMAW have also launched a petition in support of the bill, asking for musicians, music professionals, advocacy groups and independent labels to pledge support.

“There is a lot of talk in the industry about how to ‘fix’ streaming – but the streaming platforms and major labels have already had their say for more than a decade, and they have failed musicians,” UMAW organizer and musician Damon Krukowski said in a statement. “The Living Wage for Musicians Act presents a new, artist-centered solution to make streaming work for the many and not just the few. We need to return value to recordings by injecting more money into the system, and we need to pay artists and musicians directly for streaming their work.”

More Songs May Vanish From TikTok After NMPA Reveals Plans Not to Renew Licensing Deal

TikTok has been dealt another blow after the National Music Publishers Association sent a letter to its members informing them that the organization does “not anticipate” to renew its licensing deal, Billboard reports.

That means a lot more music may disappear from TikTok after millions of songs were removed when Universal Music Group severed ties with the social media giant following a contentious contract dispute. The NMPA, the largest music publishing trade body in the nation, now plans to follow suit.

“Recently, the press has highlighted concerns around TikTok’s licensing practices, concerns that NMPA has heard directly from many of our members,” the letter reads. “At this time, we do not anticipate that there will be an option to renew or extend the current NMPA licenses or participate in a new license with TikTok through NMPA.”

Whether or not more indie publishers join UMG’s boycott remains to be seen, but the platform’s latest musical death knell doesn’t bode well. The NMPA’s license is due to expire on April 30th, leaving many wondering what the future of TikTok looks like as the threat of more songs vanishing en masse looms.

Elsewhere in the NMPA’s letter, the organization said the onus to negotiate a new license is now on publishers, who must engage directly with TikTok after the deal lapses on April 30th. Prior to its impending expiration, the association offered its members the option to negotiate TikTok licenses on their behalf.

The letter arrives after biting comments from the NPMA’s CEO, David Israelite, who said he believes TikTok’s business model falls short of fairly compensating musicians.

“It is exposing a massive bias that exists in the music industry, with licensees like TikTok and even with the press in terms of somehow not thinking that songwriter rights are equal to the artist rights,” Israelite told Music Ally this week. “That bothers me.”

“With regard to TikTok, there’s a general feeling that the amount of money paid for music overall is not enough,” he added. “Then it’s a separate question of how that money gets divided between the songwriter contribution versus the recording artist contribution.”

You can read the NMPA’s full letter below.

If you are receiving this Member Alert you are currently participating in a license with TikTok through NMPA’s 2022 model license opt-in.

NMPA is notifying all participants that these two-year licenses are set to expire on April 30, 2024.

Recently, the press has highlighted concerns around TikTok’s licensing practices, concerns that NMPA has heard directly from many of our members.

At this time, we do not anticipate that there will be an option to renew or extend the current NMPA licenses or participate in a new license with TikTok through NMPA.

NMPA members should make their own business determination whether to engage directly with TikTok to negotiate a license beyond April 30, 2024.

It is important that all NMPA members understand that without a license in place, TikTok should not be using your musical works on its platform.

Starting May 1, 2024, any members who are not licensed with TikTok and would like to discuss enforcement options can contact attorneys at NMPA.

If circumstances change prior to the expiration of the current TikTok licenses, NMPA will promptly notify members.

We are here to answer your questions.

Novel Streaming Fraud Trial Commences Over £500,000 of Illicit Income

A Danish man accused of orchestrating a colossal music streaming fraud scheme has reportedly headed to trial, leading to an unprecedented legal battle that is capturing the attention of the global music industry.

Based in the city of Aarhus, the case marks a significant moment in the streaming era, highlighting the vulnerabilities and challenges within streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music. The scale of the operation is unprecedented, prompting discussions about the integrity of streaming counts and the existing measures in place to protect artists and copyright holders.

The unnamed defendant generated a staggering 4.38 million kroner, or roughly £502,000, in royalties through the manipulation of streaming services, The Guardian reports. According to prosecutors, the feat was achieved by artificially inflating the play counts of 689 music works over a span of several years.

The man is charged with both fraud and copyright infringement, the latter of which is due to his alleged altering of existing musical works, oftentimes merely modifying their length and tempo before republishing them under his own name. Prosecutors argued that the sheer volume of streams required to amass such royalties suggests the defendant violated the terms of service of the implicated music streaming platforms, thus undermining the fair compensation of artists and creators.

The defendant has pleaded not guilty to the charges, per The Guardian.

New Study Reveals Fans of Daft Punk Rank Among the Happiest

They may be robots—and defunct ones at that—but Daft Punk continue to connect with fans on a profoundly human level.

A recent study conducted by Preply suggests that fans of Daft Punk are among the happiest in the world. Meticulously conducted by analyzing over 200,000 popular posts and comments in the Reddit communities of 92 popular music artists and bands, the study offers a compelling glimpse into the emotional landscapes painted by different musicians.

Utilizing a dataset they titled “Emotion,” researchers flagged emotive words and phrases to discern the prevalent feelings stirred by each artist’s work. This methodological approach provided a rich, data-driven understanding of how artists like Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo foster a unique sense of happiness and community among their fans.

Daft Punk.

Sony Music Entertainment

Daft Punk’s position at #9 for artists most likely to make their audience happy is significant, underscoring the many ways in which electronic music can evoke happiness. It’s especially intriguing considering the wide array of musical genres and artists analyzed in the study, which lists Ed Sheeran, U2 and BLACKPINK atop the ranks.

However, Daft Punk’s unique sound, characterized by their distinctive use of synthesizers, vocoders and a commitment to thematic concepts, sets them apart as architects of timeless soundscapes that continues to resonate deeply in the dance music community, even after the duo’s shocking split in 2021.

You can read the full Preply study here.

80% Experience Emotional and Mental Health Benefits at Electronic Music Events: Study

The electronic music scene continues to be a powerhouse of cultural and economic significance, demonstrating both resilience and innovation, so says this year’s annual report from the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA).

The macroeconomic picture for nightlife in the UK remained mixed as the industry faced challenges including a 6% dip in economic impact to £2.5 billion and the loss of 31 nightclubs last year, including London’s Printworks, among other iconic venues.

However, it was far from doom and gloom as the industry also saw a 7% increase in festival attendance, totaling 2.7 million attendees. Notably, electronic music now commands 10.6% of UK singles revenue, a slight increase from the previous year.

However, the marquee highlight came out of the organization’s survey of dance music’s engagement, culture and connections. A resounding 80% of attendees reported having experienced a positive impact on their mental well-being as a result of electronic music events. In fact, dance music’s sense of community is more than perceived—75% of respondents claimed they feel a sense of belonging within the broader artistic movement and 98% of respondents acknowledged they feel a sense of comfort and safety at club events.

Available now free for download, this year’s NTIA report not only underscores the significant economic contributions and cultural resonance of electronic music, but also the urgent need for supportive measures to sustain its growth amid a constant state of evolution. You can read the full report here.