(The following post is part 1 of a two-part post called “Should We Fear AI?”. As I was writing the post, I kept uncovering more and more topics related to AI and the music business that I wanted to address. The post turned out to be very long, so I decided to break the post into two separate posts to make it more digestible. I will be publishing part two in about a week or so.)
Should We Fear AI? (Part 1)
If you’ve been following my posts and videos the last few weeks, you’ll have noticed that I’ve recently developed an interest in AI. I’ve been immersing myself in all things AI recently, exploring the myriad of tools that are emerging in the field of AI and doing my best to understand the implications for musicians and artists, both good and bad.
It’s been an interesting few weeks and the reaction I’ve received from friends and colleagues about my growing interest in AI has been very mixed. It seems like people tend to fall in either one of two groups regarding their view on AI:
In this post, I’m going to explore my views on AI and share my perspective in terms of Ais implications for the music industry, and creatives in general. It goes without saying that I don’t have all the answers and I am not an “expert” per se on AI. I don’t think anyone really knows exactly how this will all play out, the so-called experts included.
Just to be clear, the entirety of this blog post is written by yours truly (Aaron Davison), unless stated otherwise. One of the interesting things about the advent of a technology like Chat GPT, is that it is going to be harder and harder to distinguish actual authentic human voices from ideas generated by AI. This is a potential downside and a real concern, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
What Is AI?
Before we continue, let’s define precisely what “AI”, or “Artificial Intelligence” is and what AI entails. For this, I will use AI itself, Chat GPT, to be precise, to generate an easy to comprehend definition.
I went to Chat GPT and I said: I'm writing a blog post all about AI in the context of the music business. Can you please write me a simple, easy to understand definition of what AI is and, broadly speaking, what AI entails.
Here’s What Chat GPT said:
“Certainly! Here's a simple and easy-to-understand definition of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and what it broadly entails:
Definition of AI: Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. These tasks include understanding natural language, recognizing patterns, making decisions, and learning from experience.
What AI Entails: AI involves creating algorithms and computer programs that enable machines to:
Learn: AI systems can learn from data and adapt to new information. They use techniques like machine learning to improve their performance over time.
Reason: AI can make decisions and solve problems by following logical rules and analyzing data to reach conclusions.
Perceive: AI systems can sense and interpret their environment through sensors, cameras, microphones, and other input devices.
Interact: AI can communicate with humans and other machines through natural language processing (NLP) and speech recognition technologies.
Automate: AI can automate tasks and processes, reducing the need for manual intervention in various industries.
In the context of the music business, AI can be used for tasks such as music recommendation, content generation, songwriting assistance, music composition, and analyzing music trends. It can help artists, producers, and music platforms make data-driven decisions and enhance the music creation and listening experience.”
Ok, so with that definition out of the way, let’s get back to the post.
First, let me back up a few months…
When I first discovered Chat GPT last December, I played around with it for a few weeks and had fun having it write poems, lyrics, etc. It seemed like a cool tool, but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around how I could use it as musician, entrepreneur etc. I don’t really like the idea of Chat GPT, or other AI tools, doing the heavy lifting for my creative pursuits, since after all, the creative elements of songwriting and composing are to me the most rewarding elements of being an artist. If I don’t get to flex my creativity muscle when I’m making art, then making art and music makes little sense to me.
So, after a few weeks of playing around with Chat GPT, the novelty of it wore off, and I more or less forgot about it for a couple months. Then, in March of this year, I came up with the idea of collaborating with Chat GPT for a song I was working on, and I used Chat GPT to co-wrote the lyrics. I thought it would be a fun experiment and to be honest I thought maybe it would help me get more views on Youtube. It didn’t really work as I had hoped in terms of getting a lot of views, but it was a fun project, and it gave me a glimpse of what’s possible in terms of collaborating with AI and using it as a tool in the context of songwriting.
You can check that song out here:
After the song I recorded, I again put AI and Chat GPT on the backburner, and a few more months went by and more or less forgot about Chat GPT and AI. Until a few weeks ago when I was working on a blog post. Around this point, I was going through a heightened sense of frustration and burn out related to working and for that matter, making music. I have these periods, every couple years or so, where I have this sense of hitting a metaphorical wall and have to figure out how to navigate my way over, or around, whatever blocks I’m experiencing. At this point, I consider these periods fairly normal, and simply a part of the ebb and flow of life.
Although to to be honest this period of feeling “blocked” was more intense and longer lasting than previous blocks. I won’t bore you with the details, as that would make what is going to turn out to be a fairly long post, even longer. But suffice it to say, I was feeling pretty stuck, and a lot of what I was feeling was related to simply working too much. I had too much on my plate. I had reached a point where it seemed like I was working harder and harder but getting diminishing returns. Something had to give.
Right around this time, as I was trying to figure out how to get my mojo back and get things back on track, is when I I thought to myself, “hey there’s thing called Chat GPT, I should see if it can help me gather some of the data I need for the project I’m working on”. (I was working on a blog for a different website I sometimes write for related to travel).
The results astounded me. Within mere seconds I had a complete list of the data I needed, complete with citations, references and website links for related resources. I was stunned and to be honest my jaw dropped in astonishment. I had just saved myself probably about two or three hours of work, with a simple request and the click of a mouse.
This experience led me down the AI rabbit hole. Prior to this experience, I didn’t quite “get” AI. I mean it seemed pretty cool, but I just hadn’t been able to piece together how I could really apply it to what I do as a musician/entrepreneur. It’s cool that it can write short stories, poems and lyrics, and so on, but I’m not interested in working with a machine that can potentially replace me. Like I said, the creative aspect of songwriting is the most rewarding part of being a songwriter for me. The last thing I want is a machine to replace the aspect of being a musician I enjoy the most; the creativity!
However, my experience working on my blog, was an aha moment. I realized I had been looking at AI and Chat GPT all wrong. I slowly started connecting the dots in terms of how I could actually apply Chat GPT and AI to what it is I do.
What followed was a period of heightened creativity and inspiration. Once I had a glimpse of what’s possible with AI, I started making more and more connections in terms of how I could apply AI to many of my different pursuits and interests.
Although, the ironic thing is that even though AI can save us vast amounts of time and help us work more efficiently, I have been working harder than ever and putting in longer hours than usual, out of sheer excitement to create and implement new ideas I’m coming up with. It feels like the floodgates of creativity have opened, because now I realize I have the tools to actually create many of the whacky ideas I come up with, quickly and efficiently.
I’ll give you an example. Last week I was lying in bed after a meditation session and an idea popped in my head for a short film concept that I wanted to make. The idea was that there is an AI entity trapped in a Youtube video, pondering the nature of consciousness and what it means to be human vs AI. I then thought, that’s kind of a cool idea, let me go to Chat GPT and present the concept and have it write me a script, and also, it would be cool to make it in the “style of” David Lynch.
I went to Chat GPT, described my concept, hit enter and voila. A complete script based on my concept. I then used another AI tool I have to do the voiceover for the script and I edited the film myself using a variety of stock video footage I found. I ended up making the entire 6 minute short in an evening. From concept to finished product in a night. Now, to be fair, whether or not the “film” is actually good is debatable. I think it’s cool!
But, the more astonishing fact is that I was able to come up with an idea, create a script and then finish the project in an evening, having never even made a short “film” before. And this is what excites me about AI the most; the potential to birth our ideas into life much more quickly.
Here’s the short I generated, if you want to check that out….
AI encompasses many different programs and tools. In part two of this post I’ll explore a few different AI tools, but in this post I’ll be focusing on Chat GPT, since it’s probably the most well-known AI tool at this point. It’s also the AI tool I’ve been using the most.
Chat GPT is a remarkable tool and it’s capable of amazing things, however, its output is based on your input and is limited and restrained by what you ask it to do. The better input you give it, also known as prompts, the better results it will deliver. Garbage in, garbage out. The more precise you can be with what you want it to do, the better results you will get.
Let me give you an example. I will get to Chat GPT write now and have it do a few different tasks, starting from simple and mundane, to more complex and impressive.
Let’s start with something silly and trite.
Here’s my first prompt: “Chat GPT, write me a silly four-line poem about the joys of summer”:
Here’s what it wrote:
Beneath a sun that's oh so bright,
I wore my shorts a tad too tight.
Ice cream melts and flip-flops flutter,
Summer's here, let's spread the butter!
I asked for a silly poem and it delivered. Now let’s try to have it do something a bit more interesting.
Here’s my second prompt:
Please write a short essay, outlining the ways AI could both potentially hurt and potentially help musicians and the music industry. Please make the essay short, as this is part of a much larger blog post I’m working on.
Here’s what it created, in about five seconds:
The Double-edged Sword of AI in the Music Industry
The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the 21st century presents both exhilarating possibilities and daunting challenges for musicians and the broader music industry. As with any technological advancement, the implications of AI span a spectrum of positive and negative outcomes, reshaping the landscape of music creation, distribution, and consumption.
Potential Benefits of AI for Musicians and the Music Industry:
Assisting Creation: AI can serve as a collaborative tool for artists, suggesting chord progressions, generating lyrics, or even creating ambient sounds. It can bridge the gap between an artist's imagination and the final product, especially for those who might be musically inclined but lack formal training.
Personalized Listening Experiences: For listeners, AI can enhance music streaming platforms' ability to provide personalized recommendations, creating a more tailored and enjoyable listening experience.
Music Education: AI-driven applications can offer adaptive learning experiences, guiding budding musicians through their musical journey, adapting to their pace and style, and offering instant feedback.
Analyzing Consumer Preferences: The music industry can use AI to better understand listener preferences, potentially leading to better market predictions and more strategic releases of songs and albums.
Potential Detriments of AI for Musicians and the Music Industry:
Over-Reliance and Diminishing Creativity: While AI can assist in the creation process, there's a risk that artists might become overly reliant on it. This could lead to a homogenization of music, where AI-generated tracks dominate the charts, potentially stifling true creativity and the unique human touch.
Economic Impacts: As AI develops the capacity to produce music independently, it's possible that the demand for human-made music might decrease, potentially reducing income opportunities for musicians.
Intellectual Property Concerns: With AI-generated music, the lines around copyright and ownership become blurry. Who owns the rights to a song created by an AI? The programmer? The operator? The implications are vast and require careful navigation.
Devaluation of Human Skill: As AI tools become more accessible, there's a risk that the intrinsic value of human musicianship, with years of training and practice, might be undermined or overlooked.
In conclusion, AI's role in the music industry offers a paradigm shift, promising avenues of innovation while simultaneously posing significant challenges. Embracing AI's potential benefits, while remaining critically aware of its limitations and potential pitfalls, will be crucial. As we stand on the brink of this new era, it's essential for musicians, industry professionals, and consumers alike to engage in discussions about AI's role in shaping the future soundscape.
Pretty impressive. In the second example, I asked for something more substantive and was more precise in terms of what I was looking for and it delivered accordingly.
Let’s try one more example and I’ll give it an even more clearly defined set of parameters.
I said: “please give me a list of potential blog post topics I can write about related to how musicians can utilize AI, to make more money with their music. Please provide examples and related resources with url links”.
And here’s what Chat GPT said:
“Certainly! Here's a list of potential blog post topics related to how musicians can utilize AI to increase their revenue from music, along with examples and related resources where you can find more information:
"AI-Assisted Music Creation: The Next Frontier?"
Example: Apps like Amper Music or AIVA that help artists create soundtracks or backing tracks using AI.
Resource: Amper Music and AIVA.
"Optimizing Music Releases with AI-Powered Analysis"
Example: LANDR’s mastering services that use AI to optimize tracks.
"Personalized Marketing: How AI Can Boost Your Music Sales"
Example: Platforms like Spotify using AI to recommend songs to users.
Resource: Spotify for Artists.
"The Age of the AI Music Tutor: Learning and Monetizing"
Example: Apps like Yousician that provide real-time feedback on playing instruments.
"Monetizing with AI-Powered Concerts: The New Normal?"
Example: Virtual reality concerts where AI avatars perform.
"Using AI to Understand Your Fanbase Better"
Example: Services that analyze social media sentiments or engagement patterns using AI.
Resource: Platforms like Hootsuite Insights.
"AI in Merchandise: Increasing Sales with Smart Recommendations"
Example: Websites offering merchandise suggestions based on fan preferences and browsing history.
Resource: Platforms like Shopify's AI Recommendations.
"Leveraging AI Chatbots for Direct Music Sales"
Example: Using chatbots on websites to recommend albums, tracks, or merchandise to visitors.
Resource: Tools like MobileMonkey.
"Crowd Control: Using AI to Optimize Live Performance Bookings"
Example: Analyzing fan location data to select best performing cities or venues.
Resource: Next Big Sound by Pandora.
"Revolutionizing Music Licensing with AI"
Example: AI platforms matching creators with businesses needing specific music styles.
Resource: Services like Jingle Punks.”
Pretty amazing. I gave it a very specific request and it gave me a very specific answer. I could now take any single topic it gave me and dive deeper into any specific topic, adding my own voice to it, choosing what elements to focus on, what elements to skip over and so on.
Chat GPT is essentially like Google on steroids. I’m starting to see it as sort of akin to a virtual assistant. It’s great at compiling data, brainstorming business ideas, creating outlines for projects, and so on. Used in the right context, it’s an incredibly powerful tool and can save you a tremendous amount of time and effort. I’m actually the least impressed with its creative writing abilities, although it can certainly be used to generate ideas, rough drafts and so on, that you could then expand on.
The most interesting results I’m getting so far, are a collaboration of AI and human creativity and this is what I’m personally the most interested in; the intersection between human creativity and AI. This blog post is a good example. The majority of the writing and ideas are mine. I came up with the concept and I’m writing the majority of the post, but I’m using AI to illustrate my points and provide more context and data to support my initial premise. This is how I’m personally interested in using AI. I don’t want AI to replace me, or you for that matter, but I love the fact that it can save me time and help me do my job more efficiently and more effectively.
What About Creating Music With AI?
As I said, this is part one of a two-part blog post, and in the next post I’m going to dive deeper into using AI to assist in creating music. Again, this is the aspect of AI that I’m the least excited about in the context of the music business. That said, there are some powerful tools out there for musicians to be aware of and there are applications where it makes sense for artists to leverage the power of AI. For example, there are some amazing AI production tools that can assist artists in improving their production quality. There are some great tools for quickly creating backing tracks that could be potentially used in conjunction with artists creating original melodies and ideas over the top.
I don’t think we should entirely discount AI in the context of making music, but in my mind at least, creativity is a uniquely human endeavor and part of the beauty of art is the blood, sweat and tears that goes into creating a great work of art. There’s a lot to explore and in my next post, I will be exploring these ideas in more detail.
The Way I See It
So who’s right? Will AI take over the world and be the end of us all? Will we become subservient to AI and its powers? Or will we, collectively, use AI to improve humanity and our individual lives and create a more harmonious, peaceful world?
As with any new tool or technology, the potential for both possibilities exist. A hammer can be used as a tool for hammering nails, or it can be used as a weapon to kill someone. Nuclear power can be used to create energy that powers our homes, but it can also potentially be used to destroy the world in the form of nuclear weapons. Every new technology presents both a potential upside and potential downside. This is the nature of the dualistic world we live in.
My take on AI is this: AI and AI related technology isn’t going anywhere. This thing is just getting started. The implications it has for disrupting and transforming a myriad of industries is quite staggering and there is no doubt many industries will be transformed, and jobs will be lost.
However, the flipside is that AI is also an incredibly powerful tool that we can use to work more efficiently and do many tasks more effectively. In the right hands, it’s a remarkable tool and I also have no doubt will help many entrepreneurs, creatives, engineers and so on become more productive.
Will AI be a net positive for humanity? I honestly think it’s too soon to say. I can envision many positive applications for AI and I think it will be an incredible tool in the right hands. However, in the wrong hands, it could potentially disrupt and negatively impact many industries. As with any new technology, early adopters will reap the most rewards, which is why I’m focusing so much on learning how to work with AI in a positive way and studying AI to fully understand its implications for musicians and the music business.
What about you? What are your thoughts on AI in terms of the music business? Are you using AI tools already? Share your thoughts below, the good, bad and the ugly!
In the vibrant world of music streaming, Spotify has emerged as a behemoth, boasting a staggering 489 million active users as of 2023. For independent artists, it represents not just a medium to share their craft, but a potential goldmine. Delving deeper, here's a breakdown of tried-and-true strategies to bolster your Spotify presence, replete with real-life success stories and resources.
Playlisting: Your Golden Ticket
The Strategy: Playlists on Spotify are powerful tools of discovery for listeners. By placing your music on relevant, high-engagement playlists, you harness the regular traffic of these lists. It's not just about exposure; it's about positioning your music in the daily routines of listeners, creating an organic growth loop.
Real-Life Success: Lauv's "I Like Me Better"
Go-to Resource: Playlist Push...
Collaboration & Cross-Promotion: A Symbiotic Growth
The Strategy: Teaming up with other artists is like merging fan bases. When you collaborate, fans of both artists get introduced to the other, driving up streams. Furthermore, the combined promotional efforts often mean your music reaches far more ears than it would alone.
Real-Life Success: “Lovely”...
Go-to Resource: Vampr...
Spotify for Artists: Your Personal Analytics Expert
The Strategy: Knowledge is power. "Spotify for Artists" offers in-depth insights into your listeners' demographics, tastes, and listening habits. With this data, you can tailor your marketing, music releases, and even concert locations to better suit your fan base, ensuring more successful campaigns.
Real-Life Success: Rex Orange County's rise...
Go-to Resource: Spotify for Artists...
Profile Optimization: Your Digital Concert Stage
The Strategy: Think of your profile as your digital persona. An optimized profile doesn't just offer information but invites engagement. It's where you showcase your brand, your story, and create a direct bond with fans. Consistency in aesthetic and timely updates can create a lasting impression.
Real-Life Success: Conan Gray's profile...
Go-to Resource: Spotify's official guide...
Beyond Spotify: Creating Multi-Channel Harmony
The Strategy: Music listeners are everywhere - from social media to video platforms. Leveraging these channels creates multiple touchpoints for potential fans. By promoting your Spotify tracks externally, you create a funnel, channeling fans from diverse platforms to one central hub - your Spotify.
Real-Life Success: "Dance Monkey" by Tones and I...
Go-to Resource: Linktree...
Spotify Ad Studio: Crafting the Perfect Pitch
The Strategy: Traditional ads merely inform; tailored ads tell a story. By using Spotify Ad Studio, you can craft narratives that resonate with specific demographics, ensuring higher engagement rates and, by extension, higher streams.
Real-Life Success: Vulfpeck’s “Sleepify”...
Go-to Resource: Spotify Ad Studio...
User-Generated Content: Fans as Promoters
The Strategy: In the age of social media, fans have voices louder than ever. Encouraging them to create content around your music transforms them from passive listeners to active promoters, creating viral growth potential with minimal input.
Real-Life Success: Drake's "In My Feelings"...
Go-to Resource: Platforms like Instagram...
Pre-save Campaigns: The Hype Machine
The Strategy: Anticipation breeds engagement. Pre-save campaigns allow fans to express their eagerness and ensures they are first in line when a track drops. This can lead to an explosion of streams upon release, catapulting tracks to top chart positions.
Real-Life Success: Charlie Puth's "How Long"...
Go-to Resource: Feature.fm...
Spotify Networking: Building the Right Bridges
The Strategy: Building personal relationships in the music world can be as crucial as producing great content. Networking with playlist curators and other industry figures can lead to more features, collaborations, and inside opportunities.
Real-Life Success: ODESZA’s playlist features...
Go-to Resource: For The Love Of Bands...
Spotify Playlist Curator Directory
Connect with over 4,500 Spotify Playlists curators. Submit your music directly to thousands of key Spotify playlists. More info.
For a deeper dive, do check out our newest podcast episode, where we dissect the ascent of an artist who has truly decoded the Spotify matrix!
In my ongoing series on AI and music licensing, my next post delves further into the practical ways AI is transforming the music licensing space. We'll explore how AI tools and techniques are subtly transforming music licensing, offering fresh perspectives and insights. We'll also look at ways artists are using AI to license more music and optimize their catalogs, ensuring that their music aligns with evolving market demands and reaches a broader audience.
The music industry is continuously evolving, with artists relentlessly exploring new avenues to make a mark and monetize their talents. Artificial Intelligence (AI) stands out as a significant catalyst in this change. Its influence spans from revolutionizing the creative process to redefining music licensing. In today’s post, I delve into the transformative power of AI in music licensing, showcasing its benefits to artists and ways you can tap into its potential.
How AI is Transforming Music Licensing
There are a variety of ways that AI is transforming the music licensing industry, both in terms of transforming how music is created, but also how it is marketed.
Here are a few of the main ways AI is impacting music licensing:
Personalized Music Curation: AI algorithms, akin to those in streaming platforms like Spotify, have personalized music discovery. In the context of licensing, AI enhances track selection for specific projects, easing the burden on filmmakers and advertisers. The result? Artists, through understanding these AI preferences, can increase their music's chances of being licensed.
Automated Composition: AI isn’t just a tool; it's also a creator. Platforms like Loudly, utilize AI to craft royalty-free music, offering an alternative income stream for artists.
Audio Analysis for Trends: AI can digest massive audio datasets, spotting emerging musical trends. This foresight is invaluable for artists, allowing them to align their compositions with industry demand, thereby increasing their licensing opportunities.
Capitalizing on AI Insights
Genre Evolution: AI not only identifies but also predicts genre shifts and emerging styles. For instance, the rise of "electropop" is not a random occurrence; it was highlighted by platforms like Spotify's "Every Noise at Once" which maps out music genres and their popularity. Another AI-identified trend is "hyperpop", a subgenre of pop that is heavily synthesized and internet-inspired.
Resource: Every Noise at Once
Lyric and Mood Analysis: Using platforms like Musixmatch, artists can discern popular themes, topics, and moods by analyzing song lyrics. AI has spotlighted that themes of resilience, empowerment, and mental health are resonating with current audiences.
Example: Billie Eilish's "Everything I Wanted" encapsulates themes of fame, mental health, and the pressures of the music industry.
Resource: Musixmatch API
Instrumentation and Production Trends: Tools like LANDR or Endlesss provide insights into trending instruments, sounds, and production techniques. For instance, AI analysis has noted the resurgence of 80s synthesizers and the popularity of lo-fi beats in recent years.
Example: The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights" heavily incorporates 80s synth sounds.
Resource: LANDR | Endlesss
Regional and Cultural Trends: AI can detect the rise of specific genres in regions previously not associated with them. For instance, the global proliferation of K-pop has been well-documented by AI-driven platforms such as YouTube's Trending Page or Deezer's genre analytics. Artists can utilize these insights to either incorporate or collaborate with these rising styles.
Example: BTS, a K-pop group, has seen unprecedented success in Western markets, further solidified by collaborations with artists like Halsey and Ed Sheeran.
Resource: YouTube Trending | Deezer for Developers
Note: While these links and resources provide valuable insights, artists should still prioritize their unique voice and creativity. AI can guide, but the human touch in music remains irreplaceable.
Artist Case Studies:
Tessa Violet: A Modern Success Story Fueled by AI
In the world of indie-pop, Tessa Violet stands out not just for her captivating sound, but also for her strategic approach to the music industry. Rather than relying solely on instinct and traditional means, Tessa embraced the power of technology. Using AI-driven analytics from platforms such as Chartmetric, she was able to delve deep into the data behind what makes a track resonate with listeners and fit seamlessly into visual media.
The insights from these analytics allowed Tessa to refine her indie-pop sound, aligning it perfectly with current market demands. By understanding trends and audience preferences, she could craft songs that weren't just melodically engaging, but also primed for licensing in the commercial realm.
The results speak for themselves. Today, Tessa's tracks, imbued with a modern, data-informed essence, are featured in a range of media — from upbeat commercials that connect with younger audiences, to emotive moments in indie films that demand a memorable soundtrack. Her embrace of AI not only showcases the potential of tech in the music world but also serves as an inspiration for up-and-coming artists looking to find their niche in the industry.
To get a real sense of Tessa Violet's sound and the fruits of her labor, you can check out her music here.
Lost Frequencies: From Studio to Spotlight with AI Mastering
In the ever-evolving landscape of electronic music, Lost Frequencies has managed to carve a niche that resonates with both listeners and industry professionals. While raw talent and dedication undeniably play pivotal roles in an artist's rise, there's also a space for technological tools to amplify that talent. For Lost Frequencies, that technological edge came from LANDR.
LANDR, an AI-driven mastering platform, proved to be a game-changer for this artist. Traditional mastering can be a complex, time-consuming, and expensive process, often demanding multiple iterations to get the sound just right. However, with LANDR, Lost Frequencies was able to achieve a polished, professional sound that stood out in a crowded market. This superior mastering quality ensured that his tracks had that extra shine, making them not just playlist favorites but also top contenders for licensing in advertisements.
The results were transformative. As advertisers and brands sought music that connected with audiences, the pristine and compelling sound of Lost Frequencies became an obvious choice. His tracks started popping up in various commercials, amplifying his reach and solidifying his place in the electronic music scene.
This journey from studio tinkering to commercial success wasn't just about producing great music; it was about optimizing every element of that music. It serves as a testament to how artists can harness the power of AI and other technologies to elevate their craft and make a significant impact in the industry.
To dive deeper into the world of Lost Frequencies and understand the essence of his sound, you can explore more about him here.
Elise Trouw: Harnessing Data to Refine a Unique Sound
In the dynamic arena of modern music, blending genres and crafting unique sounds is both an art and a science. Elise Trouw stands as a brilliant testament to this balance. A multi-instrumentalist with a flair for fusing styles, Elise's innate talent is unquestionable. However, it's the way she harnessed modern technology, particularly insights from Spotify for Artists, that sets her journey apart.
Spotify for Artists provides musicians with a trove of data, revealing how listeners interact with their tracks. For Elise, this wasn't just numbers on a dashboard; it was a window into her audience's soul. By analyzing listening patterns, skips, saves, and playlist adds, she began to discern which elements of her fusion style resonated the most with her fans.
With this data in hand, Elise went back to the drawing board, refining her approach to music creation. The result was a sound that was authentically hers yet had an even broader appeal. This musical evolution didn't go unnoticed. Soon, TV producers, enchanted by the unique aura of her tracks, began to feature her music in several TV series, bringing her sound into living rooms across the globe.
Elise Trouw's story is a compelling reminder of how artists today can use data-driven insights to complement their creative instincts. It's about listening to your audience without losing your voice, and Elise has mastered this delicate balance.
For those keen on understanding the nuances of her musical journey and getting a taste of her exceptional talent, you can explore her journey in more detail here.
AI is emerging as a formidable force in the music licensing space. By utilizing AI-driven tools and insights, you can navigate the complex music licensing landscape with greater ease. As the industry morphs, staying abreast with AI's latest offerings is crucial for success. Embrace AI and watch your music's licensing potential amplify!
Resources for Trend Analysis:
Chartmetric: Provides insights into music trends and artist-specific analytics.
Spotify for Artists: Helps artists understand listener demographics and trends.
Soundcharts: Offers real-time music analytics.
More AI Resources For Musicians:
LANDR: Known for AI mastering, LANDR also delves into music distribution, offering tools to elevate music readiness for licensing.
Musiio: Musiio aids in categorizing music, increasing an artist's chance of showcasing their work to potential licensors.
I have been immersing myself in the world of AI lately, doing my best to wrap my head around this emerging technology. Just a few months ago, my perception of AI and its implications for the music industry were radically different than what they are today.
To be honest, I was initially afraid of AI and its implications for the music industry. Like with many new technologies, there is the potential with something like AI to disrupt industries, potentially put many people out of work and radically change an industry like the music industry over night. And as humans, we simply fear change and uncertainty, and AI is a big change with a lot of potential uncertainty.
However, the more I dive deep into many of the new AI powered tools and the more I reflect on AI’s potential, the more I see AI as simply a tool, that we can choose to leverage, or not. I no longer see AI as a threat per se. The real threat is someone else utilizing AI better than you and figuring out how to get ahead by leveraging AI. The real competition, as always, is other people.
Over the next couple weeks, I am going to be doing a series of posts related to AI and the music industry, and exploring ways you can use AI as a musician. This is a big topic and it’s one that I’m going to be approaching from multiple different angles. I have been studying and researching AI for the last few months and to say that I’m excited about the potential of AI would be an understatement.
It’s fair to say that we are in the beginning stages of a new era. You can think of this era as something like the dot com era, where early adopters, people who saw the potential of the internet, got in early and made a lot of money. This is like that, only I suspect, much bigger. I don’t think AI should be feared. To the contrary, I think it's a technology we should embrace. And regardless, the cat is out of the bag, AI is here to stay and will only grow more and more powerful, whether we want it to or not.
Ok, with that introduction out of the way, let’s look at a few ways musicians can utilize the power of AI, right now, to create and promote music that has a better chance of actually finding an audience.
How To Advance Your Music Career With AI
In the ever-evolving landscape of the music industry, artists are harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to not only create music but also to promote and amplify their artistic endeavors. AI is proving to be a game-changer, offering innovative ways for musicians to connect with audiences, optimize their strategies, and carve their path to success. Let's explore how musicians can leverage AI to promote their music effectively, along with examples, insights, and related resources.
1. Smart Targeting through Audience Analysis
AI-driven tools enable musicians to analyze audience data, providing valuable insights into demographics, preferences, and behaviors. By understanding who your audience is, you can tailor your promotional efforts to resonate with them. For instance, platforms like Spotify for Artists provide analytics that reveal the geographical locations where your music is most popular, helping you plan tour dates and target specific regions for promotion.
2. Personalized Recommendations and Playlists
One of the most influential ways AI impacts the music industry is through personalized recommendations. AI algorithms analyze listener behavior and preferences to curate custom playlists. As a musician, getting your tracks included in these playlists can significantly boost your visibility. Spotify's "Discover Weekly" and "Release Radar" are prime examples of AI-generated playlists that introduce users to new music. Collaborative playlists, where fans contribute their favorite tracks, also create a sense of community around your music.
3. Crafting Compelling Content with AI
AI tools can assist in creating engaging content for social media and marketing campaigns. Lyric video generators, like Lumen5, transform your song's lyrics into visually appealing videos that resonate with viewers. Additionally, AI-driven image recognition tools can help you select captivating visuals for album covers and promotional materials.
4. Enhancing Social Media Engagement
AI-powered chatbots can engage with your fans on social media platforms, providing timely responses and personalized interactions. This boosts fan engagement and gives you the opportunity to maintain a consistent online presence, even during busy periods. Chatbots can answer frequently asked questions, share updates, and even recommend tracks to users based on their preferences.
5. Analyzing Trends for Strategic Releases
AI can help musicians identify the best times to release new music based on historical data and trends. By analyzing factors like day of the week, time of day, and competitor releases, you can strategically time your releases for maximum impact. Tools like Chartmetric provide data-driven insights to guide your release strategy.
6. Collaborating with AI-Powered Platforms
Platforms like Amper Music and AIVA enable musicians to collaborate with AI to compose original tracks. This can be particularly useful for creating background music for videos, podcasts, and other content. These AI tools provide an extra layer of creativity and efficiency in music production.
7. Predictive Analytics for Tour Planning
AI can aid in predicting the success of a tour in specific regions by analyzing streaming data and social media engagement. This data-driven approach helps musicians tailor their tour plans to locations where they have a strong and engaged fan base.
8. Harnessing the Power of Visual Recognition
Visual recognition technology allows musicians to connect their music with visuals that resonate. For example, platforms like Musiio use AI to analyze images and match them with appropriate music. This can be particularly useful for sync licensing, where your music is paired with visual content like advertisements or films.
Case Studies: Artists Who Advanced Their Careers with AI-Powered Strategies
Billie Eilish: Personalized Recommendations and Viral Content
Billie Eilish, known for her unique sound and captivating visuals, harnessed the power of AI-generated recommendations to advance her career. Her breakthrough hit "Bad Guy" was strategically positioned through AI-curated playlists like Spotify's "Discover Weekly" and "Pop Rising." These personalized playlists exposed her music to users who shared similar preferences, propelling her into mainstream popularity.
Eilish also utilized AI-driven visual recognition tools to align her music with visually appealing content. The mesmerizing visuals in her music videos, combined with the song's innovative production, resonated strongly with her audience and generated viral content across social media platforms. By effectively utilizing AI for personalized recommendations and captivating content, Billie Eilish skyrocketed to global fame.
Lil Nas X: Riding the Wave of Emerging Trends
Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" became a cultural phenomenon by strategically aligning with emerging trends. The fusion of country and hip-hop elements tapped into a genre fusion trend gaining momentum in the music industry. The song initially gained popularity on the social media platform TikTok, where users created videos featuring the catchy hook. This viral challenge created a cascading effect, fueling social proof and propelling the track to unprecedented heights.
Lil Nas X's strategic timing in releasing the track during the rise of the trend, coupled with the viral challenge and social proof generated by user-generated content, contributed to the song's longevity atop the Billboard charts. This case illustrates how AI-powered insights into trends and social media engagement can lead to a global breakthrough.
Tones and I: Smart Tour Planning with Predictive Analytics
Tones and I, an Australian singer-songwriter, made strategic use of AI analytics for tour planning. By analyzing streaming data, social media engagement, and fan demographics, Tones and I identified regions where her music had a strong following. This data-driven approach allowed her to tailor her tour plans, focusing on cities and regions where she had a dedicated fan base.
As a result, Tones and I's tour sold out in many locations, leading to sold-out shows and engaged audiences. This strategic approach to tour planning based on AI insights showcases the power of data in optimizing artists' live performances and furthering their career trajectory.
The Endless Creativity of Holly Herndon: AI-Driven Collaboration
Holly Herndon, an experimental electronic artist, has embraced AI not only as a promotional tool but also as a collaborator. She partnered with an AI named "Spawn" to co-create music compositions that blend human creativity with machine learning algorithms. This unique approach resulted in an album titled "PROTO," which featured tracks co-composed with AI.
Herndon's experimentation with AI-driven music creation garnered attention for its innovative and boundary-pushing nature. By collaborating with AI, she not only expanded her creative horizons but also generated media coverage and interest from tech and music enthusiasts. This case study exemplifies how artists can leverage AI not only for promotional strategies but also as a creative partner.
Incorporating AI-powered strategies has proven to be a catalyst for these artists' careers. From personalized recommendations and aligning with trends to optimizing tour planning and collaborating with AI, musicians are exploring diverse avenues to enhance their presence in the music industry. These case studies underscore the transformative potential of AI in advancing artists' careers and opening doors to new levels of success.
In the dynamic landscape of the music industry, AI has emerged as a powerful ally for musicians seeking to promote their music effectively. By leveraging AI's capabilities in audience analysis, personalized recommendations, content creation, and predictive analytics, musicians can reach wider audiences, make data-driven decisions, and embark on a journey of artistic growth. The synergy between music and technology is opening new horizons for musicians, enabling them to amplify their voices and connect with fans on a deeper level.
Like I said, I will be exploring AI and its potential implications and applications for musicians in detail over the next few weeks. I see AI as an extremely powerful tool, that no doubt will transform and change the music industry. However, I don't fear this change, but rather I embrace it. AI is here to stay, so let's figure out how to use it to our advantage!
What do you think about AI? Are you afraid? Excited? Share your thoughts below!
When it comes to music licensing, it’s best to think long term. As I’ve said many times before in my blogs and podcasts, music licensing is not a get rich quick scheme. Success in music licensing usually plays out over months and years.
It takes time to create a catalog, build connections and ultimately get placements. Which is why, it’s best to approach sync licensing with this awareness from the outset. If you go into this business looking for instant gratification, you’ll most likely be disappointed. Learn to enjoy the journey and embrace the process.
When you are planning a strategy for success in music licensing, it’s best to think in terms of years, as opposed to days or even months.
Year 1 – Focus on creating a large body of work and getting production quality up to speed.
Year 2 – Focus on networking and cultivating connections with people in the industry.
Year 3 – Focus on getting placements and building your resume while continuing to create new music.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t get a placement in year one, or that you can’t continue to work on new music in year two. But this sort of long-term thinking and strategizing will allow you to see the big picture and not get stuck in a place where you’re frustrated because you’re not seeing the results you want to see right out of the gate. It will also help you keep your eye of the prize and focus on what you need to focus on at any given moment.
If you already have a large body of work ready to be pitched, then by all means start networking and building connections. But make sure you have a good grasp on where you are in the grand scheme of things before you start blindly pitching your music. It’s best to zoom out and get a bird’s eye view of where you are and then hone in on the specific area or areas you need to focus on.
How do you know where you are and what you should focus on?
First and foremost, if you want to license music, you need to have great music, that is fully produced and ready to be pitched. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the “Music Licensing Checklist” that I put together that outlines what you need to have ready to go, before you start pitching your music. Check that out here.
In the music licensing checklist PDF I break down specifically what you need and what you need to do, prior to pitching your tracks and go into more detail on each step. Here’s a breakdown of the basic steps you should take, from start to finish, as you embark on your sync licensing journey: (For more information on each step, click on the link.)
Step One – Create ten to twenty tracks, fully produced, mixed and mastered.
Step Two – Create Both Instrumental & Vocal Versions Of All Tracks
Step Three – Create Both WAV and MP3 Files Of All Tracks
Step Four – Add Metadata to your tracks
Step Five – Register Your Titles With your PRO (ASCAP, BMI, etc). If you haven’t joined a PRO yet, join one.
Step Six – “Copyright” your tracks. (Note: This isn’t a pre-requisite, but is recommended)
Step Seven – Form a publishing company to get paid for tracks licensed through companies that don’t publishing royalties (Sync Agencies, Some music libraries, licensing music directly through supervisors)
Step Eight – Launch A Music Licensing Campaign
Step Nine – Continue To Create New Music And Continue Cultivating Relationships In The Industry
The above steps provide a framework and sequence for moving through the sync licensing industry, from start to finish. You can of course always circle back and complete tasks that you haven’t already done. Maybe you’ve already started pitching your tracks, but you haven’t formed a publishing company yet. No problem, simply go back and take care of this step when you get a chance. Conversely, maybe you’ve already started pitching your tracks, but you forgot to copyright your tracks. Again, not a big deal, you can simply take care of this going forward.
When I first embarked on my licensing journey, I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing and I had to learn, through trial and error, as I went. But in retrospect, I could have saved myself a lot of time and progressed a lot quicker if I had been able to see the big picture and set myself up better for success. By anticipating the steps you’ll need to take going forward, you’ll be able to plan better and work more strategically.
Also be sure to check out my "Music Licensing Manifesto" if you haven't already for an even more in-depth overview of the music licensing journey.
Today I want to address a topic that I think is critical when it comes to getting started in the music business in 2022. It’s a topic that I’ve touched on and alluded to over the years in various blog posts and videos, but today I’m going to focus solely on this specific topic, because it’s a topic that is really important to understand when it comes creating a successful career in the music business.
We’ve all heard the expression “it takes money to make money”. There is a lot of truth to this statement, in the sense that it is certainly easier to make money if you already have money. It’s much easier to create a billion dollars of wealth if you start with a million dollars. I recall reading a couple years ago that if Donald Trump had simply invested the “small loan” of one million dollars his Father gave him into the stock market, instead of going into the real estate business, he would be richer today.
I haven’t checked the math to see whether that’s accurate, but it doesn’t surprise me. It’s a lot easier to create large sums of money, when you start with large sums of money. It’s much easier to go from one million dollars to a billion dollars, than from one dollar to a billion dollars.
It takes resources to accumulate wealth, and money is a powerful resource when it comes to creating more money. Money buys you time, labor, tools and resources that can greatly expedite your mission, whatever it is. Money is a powerful tool.
But, what if you don’t have a lot of money to start with? What then? Well, fortunately money is just one of many tools at your disposal when it comes to creating wealth and creating a business or career, whether it’s in the music business or another industry.
If you don’t have lots of resources, like money, to start with, you must be resourceful. After all, there are many ways to accomplish your goals and move forward apart from simply buying things that will get you closer to your goal. You must be creative and think outside the box, but if you’re in the music business, you’re probably already creative to start with. So it shouldn’t be that hard to come up with ways you can achieve your goals that don’t require you giving people your cold hard cash.
To give you some ideas on how this works, here are a few things I’ve done over the years to achieve my goals when I couldn’t afford to outright pay people upfront:
These are just a few things I’ve done over the years to get the job done without spending money upfront. There are a myriad of different way you can compensate people and money is just one way. Money in the form of currency is simply a unit of value. But most of us have other valuable resources we can use in lieu of currency that we may or may not be aware of.
Your skills are a form of currency. Your knowledge is a form of currency. Your time is a form of currency. Anything that others deem valuable is a form of currency that can be traded for resources. I think a lot of people think that if they can’t afford something because they don’t have enough money to buy it, whatever it is, be it a product or service, that they simply can’t have it. That could be the case, depending on what it is, not everyone will be willing to trade their products and services for your products and services. But you’d be surprised how many people are open to creative ways of getting paid, especially in the music business where most music industry professionals understand and can relate to the challenges we face as musicians.
The bottom line is that if your dream is to make music and make money from your music, it’s up to you to figure out how to make that happen. It will probably require thinking outside of the box a little bit. Don’t just shrug your shoulders and give up if you don’t know how to finance pursuing your dream and make things happen. Don’t be afraid to be creative and come up with resourceful ways of getting things done.
Instead of coming up with a list of excuses for why you can’t achieve your goals, brainstorm, and come up with a list of ways you could reach your goals. Be creative, resourceful and think outside the box, and you’ll be amazed at how many ways there actually are to get things done.
I saw a documentary recently about the effects of solitary confinement. It was a pretty fascinating look into the human psyche and what makes us tick. I learned that just three days of solitary confinement has the potential to create irreversible brain damage. Being alone, with no way to interact and engage with our environment, is not just an unpleasant experience, but it’s an experience that in just a few days has the ability to actually cause permanent damage.
This documentary really blew away and also got me thinking. Why would this state of being create such agony and even potentially cause brain damage? What is it about being confined to nothing but our thoughts that creates such a sense of discomfort? Well, I’m not a philosopher per se and I’m certainly not a psychologist, but my own take is that it’s not so much that we’re uncomfortable confronting our inner most thoughts and selves, it’s that we as humans are designed to interact and engage with each other and the world around us.
To go even deeper, I think we’re the happiest when we’re engaged in some sort of meaningful pursuit in the world. When we’re deprived of the ability to interact and engage with the world in a meaningful way (as in true solitary confinement) we suffer, both mentally and physically.
Neuroscientist Jaak Panskepp argues that of seven core instincts in the human brain (anger, fear, panic-grief, maternal care, pleasure/lust, play, and seeking), seeking is the most important. “All mammals have this seeking system”, says Panskepp, “wherein dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to reward and pleasure, is also involved in coordinating planning activities. This means animals are rewarded for exploring their surroundings and seeking new information for survival. It can also explain why, if rats are given access to a lever that causes them to receive an electric shock, they will repeatedly electrocute themselves”.
The human desire to seek helps make sense of studies showing that achieving major goals, or even winning the lottery, doesn’t cause long-term changes in happiness. It’s not so much the fulfillment of goals we’re after, it’s the pursuit of the goal we’re really seeking, as seeking is itself a fulfilling activity. In other words, it’s the journey and not the destination.
I believe this sort of innate desire to seek and create meaning in our lives is deeply connected to goal setting. We need to have aims in life, otherwise we’re just, well, aimless. If we have nothing at all to shoot for, we’re sort of just blowing in the wind, rudderless and without direction.
Sometimes it’s nice to just sort of go with the flow and see what happens. I’ve had periods in my life where I wasn’t particularly goal oriented and was more just sort of open to seeing what life presented to me each day. There’s a time and place for this sort of open-ended exploration, and even when approaching life this way, we’re probably still interacting and engaged with the world, albeit in a less focused way.
But over the long term, I find it more satisfying to have specific long-term goals I’m working towards. I find it simply helps orient my life better. It gives my life a structure and a framework. It helps to lay out a direction and clear path I need to take. It helps me avoid getting into ruts and feeling stuck.
When I’m setting specific goals, for something like music let’s say, it helps dictate the way in which I’ll be interacting with the world. It lays out a self-evident course of action I need to take. It takes a lot of the guesswork out of how I’m going to spend my time. It orients me in the world.
As an example, for 2022 I have the very simple and straightforward goal of improving as a guitarist and songwriter. My main goal, in terms of music, is to simply create better music this year, in all aspects. I’m already licensing a certain percentage of my tracks and I have connections and people willing to help shop my music in place, so I know that if I do nothing else but focus on creating better music, I’ll be able to increase the income I generate from music.
This one simple goal pretty much spells out how I’ll be spending a good percentage of my time this year. Of course, I’ll be recording more music, so I’ll be spending more time in one of several home studios I record in, working on laying down tracks. I’ll need more help on post production, in order to release more tracks, so I’ve recruited another producer to help with mixing and mastering a percentage of the tracks I release. And I’ll of course need to write more music, so I’ll be spending more time in my home studio, guitar in hand, writing and composing more music.
When we have goals we’re working towards, it helps us engage with the world in a more meaningful and cooperative way. Very few goals can be achieved completely in isolation. Even something like music, which at least in theory can be done alone, requires team work and people working together to get out into the world. And of course, without an audience to listen and appreciate the music we create, it seems sort of pointless. If I could never share my music with anyone other than myself, I doubt I would be very motivated to create it.
In the final analysis, having goals serves much more than just the practical purpose of helping us achieve our desires and make more money. Having and pursuing goals enables us to create meaningful and purposeful lives and stave off apathy and boredom, and in a literal sense, prevent brain damage.
The next time you’re feeling complacent and procrastinating, imagine yourself locked in a completely dark room, completely cut off from the outside world, with only your thoughts to help you pass the time, for days on end. Then, when the inevitable wave of gratitude washes over you, as you realize that’s just a fleeting thought and not your actual situation, get back to work on reaching your goals. Your situation could be much worse.
What about you? How important are setting goals in your life? What are you goals for 2022 and your music career?
I’ve been coaching musicians for over a decade, helping them get started in the business of music licensing. I’ve worked with thousands of musicians during this time and I’ve cultivated a really good sense of what holds most musicians back from moving forward.
Although everyone has a different story and different background, there are overlapping similarities in the majority of musicians I work with, in terms of the challenges and obstacles they face and what seems to be preventing artists from moving forward.
The overwhelming thing that seems to be holding most artists back that I work with is what I call “paralysis by analysis”, with also a bit of procrastination mixed in. In fact, I would say these two things are closely related. We often procrastinate or fail to take action because we feel like we don’t have enough information to start moving forward. It’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of “I’ll take action when…”. I’ll take action when I better understand the business. I’ll take action when I have x number of songs completed. I’ll take action in the winter when I have more down time. And so on.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s good to prepare and educate yourself to a certain extent before embarking on a new business venture like music licensing. But in my experience, the majority of artists I work with seem to be overthinking things and are getting hung up on relatively insignificant details.
As an example, I frequently coach artists who are enrolled in my member site, HTLYM Premium. One of the questions I typically ask artists I work with is how often they pitch their music, or how many leads they’ve submitted to in the past 30 to 60 days. You’d be surprised how many artists say they either haven’t pitched their music anywhere or they’ve only pitched their music to a handful of places.
Now to be fair, a lot of artists say they’re waiting to speak with me prior to pitching their music because they want to be well informed prior to reaching out to people in the industry. Fair enough. But you don’t need to have ALL the answers or know everything there is to know about licensing before you get started. The most important thing is that you start. A lot of things involved with music licensing you can learn along the way, as different situations and opportunities arise.
One of the best educations you can get in the music licensing space is to be actively engaged with people in the industry. By regularly pitching your music and cultivating relationships with people who work in sync licensing, you’ll get a sense of what kind of music is in demand, how best to reach out and submit your music, the different types of licensing deals that are standard and so much more. All of the resources and courses my team and I have put together in HTLYM Premium are based on our collective experience of working in the industry. We figured out how the business works by taking action.
Again, don’t go in completely blind. It’s good to have a general understanding of how the business works before you put you and your music out there. The reason I’ve created HTLYM Premium and all the resources we offer is so that you’ll have the knowledge and information to move forward confidently. But, don’t get stuck in the “paralysis by analysis” mindset. Once you have a decent grasp on how the business works, start taking action!
I'm creating a five part series of videos featuring a compilation of FAQs related to Sync Licensing that were covered on my podcast, Music, Money and Life.
Watch the first video below. I'll be posting new videos each week here until the series is finished.
After that, I'll be launching an entirely new podcast that will feature a variety of up and coming artists in multiple genres.
Sync Licensing FAQs Part 1
1) Is Music Licensing A Viable Career? 0:00
2) Exclusive Vs Non Exclusive Deals 3:14
3) How do you get your songs in Films? 6:03
4) The importance of networking 13:31
5) Should you write specifically for licensing or just write what you’re inspired to write? 17:48
6) Instrumental Vs Vocal Music 21:28
Today’s post is about an ongoing legal matter regarding a publisher/composer I interviewed in 2019 for my podcast and several composers, as well as several music libraries. As this is an ongoing matter, with lawyers involved, and even potentially the FBI, I’ve been advised not to mention any specific names at this point.
This post will serve as more of a cautionary tale about what can potentially happen when you do business with the wrong people and will provide examples of red flags and things to look out for when signing with any new potential libraries, publishers, etc.
Fortunately, in my experience, these types of scams are relatively rare, but like in all industries, there are a few bad apples out there. Composers/artists should always do their due diligence when deciding whether or not to do business with someone.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from a composer who had connected with a publisher/composer who I interviewed on my podcast in 2019. In the email I received, this composer claimed that this particular publisher/composer had been essentially stealing his tracks, as well as tracks from other composers, registering himself as the sole writer and selling and placing their songs with a variety of other libraries and sync agencies, all unbeknownst to the original composers of the tracks. The composer wanted me to remove this podcast episode so other artists wouldn’t be exposed and potentially fall victim to this person.
I of course, was disturbed to hear about this and so I offered to get in touch with the publisher/person in question to get their version of events. After all, there are two sides to every story as they say. The person who contacted me didn’t want to be involved any further and asked that I not share their email with the publisher out of “fear of repercussions”. I found this response a little strange. After all, how can I investigate and get to the bottom of something if I’m not allowed to hear from all parties involved? So, at that point I didn’t take any action, since I wasn’t privy to what agreements had been signed and wasn’t really sure exactly what had or hadn’t taken place. An allegation alone isn’t sufficient to prove someone is guilty of anything.
About a week or so went by and I received another email from someone, about the same person, with the same allegations. This email came from the owner of a very established and prominent music licensing agency. This person didn’t want to go into detail via email, so we set up a phone call instead. Over the course of about an hour-long conversation, this person outlined in detail, the extent of the deception of this particular composer/publisher, how many people have been affected and provided documents and email exchanges with the publisher, all indicating guilt.
I was really heartbroken to hear that someone I interviewed and considered a reliable source of information for composers wanting to get started in licensing, would be capable of this sort of deception and outright theft. It’s hard enough to break into the music business as it is, so when I learned that something like this had been going on, well, to say it makes my blood boil would be an under-statement. Utter disgust is what I felt. Especially knowing that I had inadvertently and unknowingly introduced potentially thousands of people to this person via my podcast.
I’ve interviewed well over 200 guests for my site and podcast over the last ten years. I do my best to research and vet everyone I interview and in hindsight there were no red flags or warning signs that I was aware of that would have indicated anything like this was taking place. To this day when I google this person, I don’t see anything that comes up in the search results that would provide any suspicion or red flags about this person. My guess is that only recently have enough people become aware of what’s taking place and are starting to speak out, that only now is the extent of this person’s deception coming to light. Karma has a way of eventually sorting these things out.
Red Flags & Warning Signs
I took a look at the contract that the artists signed and there was nothing explicitly in the contract that would have indicated that what transpired would have transpired. After all, no composer would willingly let someone steal their tracks. However, there were some strange things about this particular contract that should have been seen as red flags that something was amiss.
For starters, the contract itself was clearly cobbled together from several other contracts. Different sections had different fonts and different formats. It looked as if this “publisher” simply copied and pasted parts of several different contracts he had access to into one document that served as his “contract”. I would have been reluctant to sign this particular contract based on that fact alone.
Secondly, the very beginning of the contract states “This is not a legal document but an agreement between…”. What?? Isn’t the whole point of signing a contract to have a legal agreement, in writing, with all the terms of the working relationship spelled out? I’ve never seen language like this in a contract before and to be honest, I’m not quite sure what the point of stating that a signed written agreement is not a “legal” document. To the best of my knowledge, anytime two parties put an agreement in writing and sign it, it becomes a legal document by default.
The whole contract just seemed unprofessional and off. However, I can understand if someone was new to the business and super eager to get involved, they might simply overlook these things and move forward anyway. One of the composers I spoke to about this matter said that’s exactly how he felt. He said that he felt like something wasn’t quite right but that he was new to the business and wanted to do whatever he could to get started.
How To Avoid Falling Victim To Scams And What To Do If Someone Steals Your Tracks
Unfortunately, there was no one thing that would have tipped off composers that something like this was going on. In the same way that in a romantic relationship, if a partner is going to cheat on you, they most likely aren’t going to just outright tell you their plans, if someone plans to steal your tracks, they of course aren’t going to let you know. However, in both cases, there will most likely be red flags and signs that something is not right, as was the case with the contract this publisher used.
When signing any new contracts, be sure to look over everything very carefully. If you have questions about anything, ask for clarification. If you have access to an attorney or someone who is more experienced than you are in the industry, have them look over the contract to make sure everything is on the up and up. I realize this is not always feasible. In my case, when I was first starting out, I had a friend who was an attorney, who looked over the first few contracts I signed, for free, until I was familiar with how the business worked. It’s a good idea to have an attorney or two in your circle of friends!
Music Library Report
It’s also a good idea to do your due diligence in terms of researching new libraries you sign with. Music Library Report is a great resource for researching different libraries and finding out what composers have to say regarding their experiences with a variety of different libraries/publishers. Conversely, Music Library Report is a good place to go to share both positive and negative experiences you’ve had with different libraries you’ve worked with, with other composers. Of course, if you’re going to share negative experiences, make sure you have a legitimate grievance and not simply a misunderstanding.
One of the reasons I’m not naming specific names in this post, as much as I’d like to, is because I don’t have a business relationship with the person in question, so I don’t really feel like it’s my place to publicly call someone out for something that happened to someone else. Based on multiple conversations I’ve had with the parties involved there’s little doubt in my mind that intellectual property theft took place, but it’s probably best that the lawyers and parties directly involved sort it out themselves.
I highly recommend that all composers/artists involved in music licensing create a Tunesat account. Tunesat will monitor when and where your tracks are being used. You can upload and monitor detections for up to 50 of your tracks for free. For catalogs of over 50 tracks you’ll need a premium account.
Tunesat is a great service and it was a result of monitoring his musics' usage via Tunesat that the composer who reached out to me initially discovered his music was being stolen. By detecting where his music was being used, the composer was able to do a bit of detective work to discover what libraries were securing the placements.
Upon further investigation, this composer discovered he had been completely cut out of the song’s registrations with BMI and that the publisher was listing himself as the sole writer of these tracks and collecting 100% of the writer’s royalty. The libraries securing the placements were also mistakenly under the impression that the publisher was the writer of the tracks as well.
Unfortunately, all industries are going to have a few “bad apples”. The music industry is certainly no exception. However, this sort of outright theft of other composers’ music baffles me. It makes no sense to think that one could perpetuate a scam like this for long and I really struggle to understand the mindset of someone who would do something like this. My guess is that over time the damage this person is doing to their own reputation will catch up with them. Like I said, karma has a way of sorting these things out.
[Suffice it to say I’ve removed my podcast with this person and have cut all ties]