YouTube reportedly offering "lumps of cash" to major recording labels to train its AI models with huge libraries of music

YouTube logo on ZTE Axon
YouTube logo on an Android phone (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • YouTube is in talks with major record labels about using their songs to train AI.
  • Sources disclose Google could part with "lumps of cash" to secure the deal.
  • Over 200 UK-based artists signed an open international letter "to help protect them from the predatory misuse of AI to steal their work."

In a surprising turn of events, YouTube is reportedly in the middle of striking a deal with major music labels, including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Records, to use their tracks to train AI (via Financial Times).

While details about the deal remain slim, sources indicate the company is ready to part with "lumps of cash" to secure the deal. If successful, it will have access to a library of tracks to train AI models. 

In the past few years, we've seen top players in the AI landscape, like Microsoft and OpenAI, being slapped with copyright infringement lawsuits seeking ridiculous amounts of cash as compensation. Finer details of the deal between YouTube and major music labels suggest that each artist signed to the mentioned labels must give the go-ahead before their music is used to train AI models.

It seems like a needle in a haystack that every artist will sign off their music for AI training despite the wads of cash thrown at them as compensation. In May, over 200 UK-based artists signed an open international letter to help protect them from the predatory misuse of AI to steal their work. As such, it's unlikely they've had a change of heart overnight. 

Google's bigger picture for AI

Launching the Google Chrome browser in Windows 11.  (Image credit: Future)

In case you missed it, Google started testing a new feature called Dream Tracks for YouTube Shorts. The feature allowed YouTubers to generate unique songs following trends, compositions, and styles belonging to some of their favorite artists, including Demi Lovato, Charlie Puth, Papoose, Sia, T-Pain, and Alec Benjamin. Now, the company wants to build on this premise with a broader list of artists and songs. However, it's unclear if the deal will be used to improve Dream Track's capabilities or just for AI training. 

Google is seemingly playing it safe and using the "right" channels after OpenAI faced backlash from Scarlett Johansson of Marvel Avengers fame for using her voice in its new AI models without permission. However, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman denied the claims and indicated, "Sky is not Scarlett Johansson's, and it was never intended to resemble hers."

YouTube seeking permission to use songs to train AI models is part of Google's broader plans for its AI strategy as it rushes to catch up with Microsoft and OpenAI. Google has faced several challenges in its AI advances, including its controversial Google AI Overview feature, which bizarrely recommended eating rocks and glue and potentially even committing suicide, despite having acquired exclusive rights to Reddit content to strengthen its AI. Interestingly, the company shifted blame to a data void coupled with faked screenshots designed to present it in a bad light. 

Kevin Okemwa

Kevin Okemwa is a seasoned tech journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya with lots of experience covering the latest trends and developments in the industry at Windows Central. With a passion for innovation and a keen eye for detail, he has written for leading publications such as OnMSFT, MakeUseOf, and Windows Report, providing insightful analysis and breaking news on everything revolving around the Microsoft ecosystem. You'll also catch him occasionally contributing at iMore about Apple and AI. While AFK and not busy following the ever-emerging trends in tech, you can find him exploring the world or listening to music.