Daniel Ek, the CEO of Spotify , has stated that the music streaming platform has no intentions of completely banning content generated AI . Earlier this year, Spotify removed a track that featured AI-cloned voices of the artists Drake and The Weeknd. In an interview with the BBC, Ek emphasized that valid applications exist for AI in music creation but stressed that it should not impersonate human artists without their consent. He anticipates that the debate over AI’s role in music will continue for many years.
Ek categorized AI use in music into three “buckets”:
- Tools such as auto-tune, which enhance music, were deemed acceptable by him.
- Tools that mimic artists were considered unacceptable.
- The middle ground, where AI-generated music is influenced by existing artists but does not directly impersonate them, posed a more complex challenge.
Regarding the industry’s challenges, Ek acknowledged, “It is going to be tricky.”
While Spotify does not outright ban AI in all forms, it does prohibit the use of its content to train machine learning or AI models for music production.
Many artists are increasingly expressing concerns about the use of AI in creative industries. Hozier, an Irish musician, recently voiced his reservations, questioning whether AI truly meets the definition of art.
Notably, neither Drake nor The Weeknd were aware that the song “Heart on My Sleeve” used cloned versions of their voices. Spotify and other streaming platforms subsequently removed it in April. The creator of the track, Ghostwriter, attempted to have it nominated for a Grammy award but was unsuccessful.
Ek highlighted the challenges Spotify faces, including individuals attempting to deceive the system by uploading songs claiming to be from famous artists. He mentioned that Spotify has a substantial team dedicated to addressing these issues.
In May, Spotify removed thousands of tracks because the Financial Times reported that bots were artificially inflating their streaming numbers.
Ek also discussed Spotify’s significant investments in podcasts, featuring high-profile figures like Michelle and Barack Obama and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. However, the latter’s deal cost a reported $25 million and resulted in just 12 episodes over two and a half years. There have been reports of a Spotify executive expressing dissatisfaction with the work ethic of the royal couple.
Ek acknowledged the mixed results of their podcasting efforts, noting that five years ago, Spotify was not a major player in the podcasting arena.
Russell Brand’s Podcast
Separately, Spotify confirmed that Russell Brand’s podcast would remain on the platform unless its content violated Spotify’s terms and conditions. Acast, the podcast’s owner, suspended advertising revenue from it due to ongoing investigations into allegations of sexual assault against the comedian.
Daniel Ek’s visit to the UK was primarily to discuss regulation. He expressed support for the incoming Online Safety Bill, designed to enhance internet safety for children, and the ongoing Digital Markets Bill, which aims to increase competition by closely monitoring tech giants.
Ek has been a vocal critic of Apple and Google’s app store policies, which charge commissions on in-app purchases. Spotify alleges that Apple’s practices make it challenging to communicate directly with customers and promote its services elsewhere.
Ek stressed the significance of this issue, saying, “We are in a situation where literally two companies in the world control how over four billion consumers access the internet.” He highlighted that Spotify already returns nearly 70% of its revenues to the creative community, and subtracting the 30% commission would leave them with nothing.
In April, the European Commission charged Apple with violating EU competition rules in response to a complaint from Spotify in 2020. Although the EC has scaled back its objections against Apple, a final ruling is pending. Apple maintains that the majority of European developers earn less than $1 million in revenue and qualify for a 15% commission rate.