Why This Canadian Music Industry Group Sees Potential in AI

The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada is collaborating with the University of Toronto on a new artificial intelligence effort. The goal: to better track where a song gets played.

Artificial intelligence and music sound like two things that shouldn’t have anything in common. To put it simply, music is very much not an artificial thing.

On the other hand, there are a ton of benefits to AI that the music industry can benefit from—for one, the issue of music licensing. Perhaps that’s why a music industry group is working closely with a university noted for creating an AI-produced Christmas carol.

The Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) recently announced a partnership with the University of Toronto’s Department of Computer Science Innovation Lab to help deduce new strategies for tackling the increasingly complex problem of music licensing. The department will launch a course called AI & Music starting next semester, with SOCAN providing problem sets to students.

In a release on the university’s website, SOCAN CEO Eric Baptiste noted that the industry’s big problem is the increasing complexity of licensing—once an easy thing to track, it’s become increasingly complicated to manage because of the sheer number of track plays it has to account for.

“The main problem we’re dealing with is the explosion of usage around the world, and the need to be more proactive and quicker to leverage data to be able to license correctly,” he said in the release.

In the days before the MP3, the total number of performances was in the hundreds of thousands, according to Baptiste, who adds, “now we’re in the trillions.”

U of T’s Catherine Moore, a music professor who helped to organize the partnership, said that the AI work opens up an opportunity to assist in detecting songs where no metadata was previously attached.

“What’s going to come up in the work with the innovation lab is ways to maximize the collection of royalties that are owed,” she said.

Also this week, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors, another Canadian music industry group, released data on royalties in 2016. Last year, royalties topped $12.9 billion in Canadian dollars, or $10 billion in U.S. dollars. The group reported that digital revenues have grown threefold since 2012.

(Photoevent/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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