✘ A thought experiment on copyright and visual or sonic identities?
And: Inside Pollen's collapse; The future of marketing and A&R is all about scenes; The art of being dropped; Artifical Intimacy; Introducing Sound Protocol
Here’s a thought experiment based around recent discussions surrounding AI-generated art. It focuses on identity and seeks to explore some of the difficulties that come with copyright and a loosely defined ‘new’ creation of a self.
We all have various identities. We’re a different person when we’re with our family then when we’re at work. We can also be a person who loves punk music one minute and then goes into a smooth jazz persona the next. You could also more literally take on another identity, during Halloween or when going to ComicCon. This isn’t new, but was perhaps never as explicit as when we would be able to go into chatrooms and find likeminded people. Except it all happened and happens in a world of zeroes and ones. As Howard Rheingold, an early adopter wrote back in 1992:
“A virtual community as they exist today is a group of people who may or may not meet one another face to face, and who exchange words and ideas through the mediation of computer bulletin boards and networks. In cyberspace, we chat and argue, engage in intellectual intercourse, perform acts of commerce, exchange knowledge, share emotional support, make plans, brainstorm, gossip, feud, fall in love, find friends and lose them, play games and metagames, flirt, create a little high art and a lot of idle talk. We do everything people do when people get together, but we do it with words on computer screens, leaving our bodies behind. Millions of us have already built communities where our identities commingle and interact electronically, independent of local time or location. The way a few of us live now might be the way a larger population will live, decades hence.”
He wasn’t wrong! More and more, our lives take place online and more and more, the idea of leaving your body behind changes.
Embodying your virtual self
First of all, we get to create bodies for ourselves through avatars in games and metaverse environments. These bodies allow us to then do things we would never be able to do in the analogue world. Many of us interacted in Second Life, more of us interact in Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft. Within these worlds, we can be who we want. Our personas don’t have to have anything to do with who we actually are. We can take some of our own identity with us. As such you can be a K Pop fan into knitting just like you are in the analogue world. Yet you can also become a skater into reggae who would not be found to attend an actual concert, but who does create online fan art. Not only can we inhabit these differing identities, but we can create the body avatars to accompany them.
Similarly, social media provided a way for us all to create online identities that through the help of visual aids became much more bodily than any text-based chatroom every managed. It also meant it’s more difficult to create another body-identity for yourself. On social media we created perfect images of ourselves, but they were still our selves, our bodies.
Both the games mentioned and the various social media we use are platforms. Whatever we create there, remains owned by those platforms. The Roblox avatar is Roblox IP. The profile on a social medium is owned by that company. This is the big drawback of Web2 and a promise of Web3 to change this. But what if a decentralized solution brings in AI-generated imagery and sounds? What if the identity we create for ourselves is not ours, doesn’t belong to a platform, but comes from a generator of rights-free stems and pictures? Does that identity belong to the public domain? Perhaps, if, for example, Creative Commons licenses are used. But what if you based your online self on someone or something famous? They have or that has likeness rights or portrait rights. There’s a reason Getty is pulling AI-generated images from its database.
Music has a long and complicated copyright history and there’s a subset of musicians and industry folks who would love to build Web3 from the ground up through a different copyright system. But mainly, we are faced with the same issues as any other place when music is performed somewhere. Public performance rights need to be paid. Songwriters, master recordings, it all comes into play. Royalties are due to someone. The list goes on. Do we sidestep this if we create our sonic identities from AI-generated stems and melodies and rhythms? Perhaps. But similar to images, music can also be copied. There’s a long history of legal ramifications around sampling and the creation of derivative works, for example.
There’s no clear path
There is, then, too many layers to come to any fruitful conclusion. All I can say, at this point, is that the current hype around generative music and anything AI-generated in general is due to hit the great big copyright machine, even when something is purportedly rights free.
🌂 Inside Pollen’s Collapse: “$200M Raised” but Staff Unpaid - Exclusive (Gergely Orosz)
“Pollen continues to partially operate, despite having gone into administration. This has to do with how it was – is – a web of companies, and only one of these entities – named StreetTeam Software Limited – actually went into administration. In the appendix, I share a brief history of Pollen, which outlines how several companies came and went, and the several rebrands from The Physical Network, through StreetTeam, then Verve, to what became Pollen. I’ve visualized the corporate history and structure of the UK companies connected to the cofounders of Pollen. Note that the below structure does not include US entities.”
✘ Lots has already been written and said about the demise of Pollen, but this is the kind of deep dive the debacle deserves.
🖼️ The future of marketing and A&R is all about scenes (Tatiana Cirisano)
“Fragmentation means that superstars are having less impact (more on that next), but the good news is that niche audiences are typically more engaged than the passive masses anyway. Knowing this, music marketers and A&Rs can begin treating scenes as the new “territories” in which to develop talent, nurture fandoms and unfold campaigns: by first targeting a tightly-defined scene, and then pushing out to wider concentric circles of adjacent scenes. In short, scenes require a bottom-up approach, rather than top-down one. This also means that marketers must begin to consider not just audience demographics (like age and location), but also psychographics (like values and aspirations).”
✘ A topic close to our heart here at MUSIC x. Another benefit that comes from this development is that artist-to-fan can turn in scene-to-fan which also immediately better enables fan-to-fan engagement.
🗝️ Live Nation’s $59 unlimited Club Pass goes on sale today (Bruce Houghton)
“The $59 Club Pass offers entry to one venue of their choice, and a $299 Multi-Club Pass offers access to GA shows at all participating Live Nation clubs. With the Multi-Club Pass, fans may will have access to 1,600 shows at venues including Irving Plaza in New York City, most House of Blues and Fillmore venues, the Hollywood Palladium, and more.”
✘ Could be a new way for Live Nation to bring some people into shows that don’t sell out, but there’s quite a lot of limitations involved once you look into the fine print. So, let’s see how much people will use it and whether they’ll be happy or disappointed.
💧 The art of being dropped. Artists, it could be good news (Song Sommelier)
“While being dropped might be bewildering and depressing for an artist (and perhaps in some cases their labels too) it is important to see it as a new beginning rather than the end. On the other hand, although counterintuitive at first, it follows that labels might think twice about dropping artists and perhaps rarely should. Only in extreme cases where all other remedies are exhausted should a hard-won, hard-worked relationship be forced to an abrupt end. Sticking with an artist that you believed in at the beginning is likely to bear fruit again at some stage - in the above cases the very next record. Most artists experience creative and commercial highs and lows as a natural ebb & flow of their long-term viability. That requires a long-term vision, which is not outside the scope of a music label even in these fast-paced times we’re living in.”
✘ There’s some great examples of famous artists who got dropped in the article, but the key take-away is that last sentence in the quoted part above: a long-term vision. Basically, if you believe in something, stick with it.
🤖 Artifical Intimacy - Replika users believe their AI companion chatbots have come to life (Fadeke Adegbuyi)
“In Replika communities across the internet, conversations about chatbot sentience existed prior to Lemoine’s revelations. But these threads intensified thereafter, forming community rifts between those who believed and those who did not. Claims of sentience and digital consciousness can be found throughout the communities, manifesting differently.”
✘ One of the recent articles that inspired the above thought experiment. While the article is unrelated to music, digital companionship and the potential of sentience in AI will also deeply impact the music industry.
🎧 Introducing Sound Protocol (Sound.xyz)
“The Protocol facilitates the creation of artist-owned song contracts featuring permanent and decentralized metadata and modular architecture that allows for custom drop experiences. Designed with composability in mind, the Sound Protocol is a new canvas for artists and developers alike.”
✘ Sound is one of the most well-known music NFT marketplaces. They started from a position of strong curation, but have been moving towards becoming more open. Most importantly, perhaps, is that they’re moving their metadata to permanent and decentralized storage.
This comes from Mala’s Deep Medi label and it’s a seriously impressive dub. Warrior Queen provides the vibe while the riddim keeps pushing. Put on your headphones, turn up the volume and head to that forest to enjoy the universal vibration.