Media snippets of the week – Solution to the Music AI problem?

The rise of AI's threat to the music industry has been both swift and intense. Since the introduction of Gen-AI models last year, there has been a significant surge in AI-generated music on the internet. The most concerning are the "deep-fake" materials, using voices of the artists without their consent. A prime example was the song "Heart on My Sleeve," purportedly a collaboration between Drake and The Weeknd. In reality, this was an AI-generated deep-fake track that accumulated millions of streams before its removal from the platforms. Spotify, which has been inundated with AI-generated music, has been stepping up the policing of its platform in recent months. A potential solution for the music industry may now be on the horizon. Universal Music is in preliminary discussions with Google to license artists' melodies and voices for AI-generated songs. This could potentially kill two birds with one stone; the music industry would receive royalties if artist voices are used to create songs, freeing the way for Google to launch AI music production tools without copyright concerns. The current situation bears resemblance to the early days of YouTube, which was once a threat to music artists. However, a system is now in place that compensates the industry around US$2bn per year for user-generated videos. Other things to note this week are the rising concerns of the ad tech industry over Google’s third-party cookie alternatives and the pressure on tech giants to make opt out easier for user targeting. 


News of the week

Google and Universal Music in discussion of gen-AI partnership

Google and Universal Music are in early-stage discussions to license artists’ melodies and voices for AI-generated songs. The move aims to monetise the rise of "deep-fake" songs that mimic established artists, often without their consent. The goal is to develop a tool for fans to create these tracks legitimately and pay copyright owners. Artists would have the choice to opt in. Google has been experimenting with AI-powered music production tools, but has been restricted by copyright limitations. This partnership could help Google compete against Microsoft in this space. Meanwhile, Universal Music, which previously urged Spotify and Apple Music to remove AI-generated songs, could monetise what has been a growing threat to its business. According to FT, Warner Music is also having similar discussions with Google. Warner Music CEO Robert Kyncl said to investors that AI-powered fan-generated content could be the ‘ultimate compliment’ to artists if the right framework is in place with artists’ consent. FT

Ad tech companies hesitant to test Google’s Privacy Sandbox

Google has announced plans to fully phase out third-party cookies from Chrome by the end of 2024. Initially, the tech giant intends to disable cookies for 1% of users in the first quarter of 2024 as a trial for its new targeting and measurement tools, collectively known as the Privacy Sandbox. Despite the looming deadline, the response from ad tech providers towards participating in Google's testing has been varied. The effectiveness of the Privacy Sandbox compared to third-party cookies remains a topic of debate. However, growing concerns are emerging about the fairness and transparency of Google's new processes, and whether they unduly favour Google itself. Specifically, questions are being raised about the viability of advertising in Chrome without cookies, without having to rely on Google's machine-learning ad products, which would give Google control over targeting and measurement. Regulatory authorities are keeping a close watch on the developments. In the UK, the CMA is currently engaging in discussions with ad tech leaders about their concerns. Digiday

TikTok plans to allow users to turn off personalisation

TikTok is updating its commitments in Europe to comply with the obligations of the Digital Services Act. This follows Meta which proposed, last week, to seek European users’ consent before showing targeted ads. TikTok has proposed to allow users to disable personalisation, which will significantly alter the way recommendations are made across all its channels. Instead of tailoring recommendations based on personal interests, the 'For You' and 'LIVE' feeds will suggest content based on popularity and geographical locations. For searches that are not personalised, the results will feature popular content from the user's region and in their preferred language. Furthermore, the 'Following' and 'Friends' feeds will be organised chronologically. TikTok has also provided additional information about the steps it has taken to eliminate illegal content and moderate content in accordance with the Digital Services Act. TikTok, WARC

“Targeted” programmatic ads coming to cinemas

National CineMedia (NCM), a NASDAQ-listed in-cinema advertising company, announced plans to innovatively place ads in cinemas programmatically starting from 4Q. Hit hard by the pandemic, NCM filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. The company aims to attract more digital advertising dollars to the cinema through programmatic buying, which could target certain audiences based on data such as the location of the cinema, inventory genre and movie titles. NCM’s offer could be attractive. It provides easy access to cinema inventory to advertisers who haven’t used it before. Cinema inventories are high quality since it more easily captures audience attention. According to a study by ad research firm Lumen, people are much less likely to be distracted when they watch the big screen than when they watch TV. Also, NCM collects first-party data through ticket sales and loyalty memberships. Combined with third-party transaction data, NCM could help advertisers improve in-cinema campaigns and complement it with online retargeting. Adexchanger

National World considers joining the sales process for The Telegraph

National World, the owner of regional titles including the Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post, is considering a bid for The Telegraph. The company believes owning the Telegraph aligns with its strategy of acquisitions and implementing a new operating model, which includes the use of AI to automate newspaper creation. The Telegraph was put up for sale after banks took over control from the Barclay family. A formal process will commence later this year, with the asset speculated to be valued at over £500m given its recent robust financial performance. However, with National World's market capitalisation standing at approximately £50m, it is unclear how the deal will be financed. The timing of this interest is somewhat inopportune, as the National Union of Journalists has just announced it would poll National World reporters on potential strike action in response to allegations of low pay and poor career progression. The Guardian

Other news

  • Paramount to sell Simon & Schuster to KKR for US$1.62bn. Reuters
  • Meta adds new hooks to Threads to improve user retention. TechCrunch
  • Ladbible teaming up with the AA to improve young drivers’ confidence. Campaign

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