Home YouTube wants record labels to license music for its AI song generator

YouTube wants record labels to license music for its AI song generator


  • YouTube is negotiating with major record labels to license artists' content for training its AI tools.
  • Many artists oppose AI involvement, fearing it undermines their work and the industry's future.
  • Some artists, like John Legend and Charli XCX, are part of a YouTube pilot using generative AI for music creation.

YouTube is reportedly locked in talks with major record labels, aiming to secure a licensing agreement to train their artificial intelligence tools on the artists’ content. 

It is a highly controversial and emotive issue with many performers vehemently opposed to the influence of AI with fears that it could undermine their work, its value, and the future prospects of the industry. 

YouTube courts the music industry over AI plans

Google-owned YouTube, which is trying new ways to stop ad-blockers, is attempting to win over the support of a very skeptical industry, and one of the ways it is doing so, is by offering upfront payments.

As reported by the Financial Times, three of the music heavyweights – Sony, Warner, and Universal – are believed to have been approached to open up their portfolio of audio content to be deployed by YouTube with its AI software. 

Crucially, it has been stated the last word would reside with the artists and not the labels on this question, and if they would participate, individually.

In April last year, over 200 artists signed an open letter stating, “We must protect against the predatory use of AI to steal professional artists’ voices and likenesses, violate creators’ rights, and destroy the music ecosystem.”

Conversely, performers such as John Legend and Charli XCX agreed to participate in a YouTube pilot with the rollout of its Dream Track tool. The generative AI program enabled a select band of creators to pull vocals and lyrics from the artists’ catalog. Despite only 10 artists signing up, YouTube claimed to have “dozens” ready to collaborate. 

Industry insider comments on the AI debate

It is a controversial, complex debate that isn’t going away as one executive at a large music label told the FT, “The industry is wrestling with this. Technically the companies have the copyrights, but we have to think through how to play it. We don’t want to be seen as a Luddite.”

The record companies will not hold back when it comes to protecting their interests, as was shown when major labels Sony and Universal were involved in the legal action taken against AI music generators, Suno and Udio, for mass copyright infringement. 

Under the umbrella of the Recording Industry Association of America, the plaintiffs are seeking up to $150,000 per piece of work infringed.

Featured image: Ideogram

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Graeme Hanna
Tech Journalist

Graeme Hanna is a full-time, freelance writer with significant experience in online news as well as content writing. Since January 2021, he has contributed as a football and news writer for several mainstream UK titles including The Glasgow Times, Rangers Review, Manchester Evening News, MyLondon, Give Me Sport, and the Belfast News Letter. Graeme has worked across several briefs including news and feature writing in addition to other significant work experience in professional services. Now a contributing news writer at ReadWrite.com, he is involved with pitching relevant content for publication as well as writing engaging tech news stories.

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