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THE MMF MANAGER SUMMIT: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

20 September 2023

Hosted at 21Soho, the MMF’s second sell-out Manager Summit provided delegates with a day of discussions, surgeries and keynotes – all focussed on the issue of the day: Artificial Intelligence.

Hosted at 21Soho, the MMF’s second sell-out Manager Summit provided delegates with a day of discussions, surgeries and keynotes – all focussed on the issue of the day: Artificial Intelligence.

Taking place before our AGM, it also preceded the launch of the MMF’s all-new Managers Guide to AI – our latest instalment of the Dissecting The Digital Dollar project.

Written by CMU’s Chris Cooke, the guide provides a succinct, easy-to-read breakdown of the main talking points surrounding these new and emerging technologies, as well as the key legal and commercial implications that all managers should be aware of.
It also includes a template letter, developed by the Council of Music Makers, that managers are encouraged to send to future and existing partners to ensure their client’s rights in relation to AI are being recognised and respected.

The guide can be downloaded from the MMF website.

But onto the Summit…

Chaired by Casperaki’s Marinana Carr, first up was a state of the nation, no-stone-unturned discussion on the AI music landscape featuring MMF board member Sammy Andrews (Deviate Digital), Agnieszka Pustula (Redburn Atlantic) and Nick Eziefula (Simkins LLP). Covering some of the commercial, creative, legal, and even ethical questions around these new and emerging technologies, the panel weighed in on how artists and music businesses are already using AI and some of the grey areas still to be worked out (licensing, mainly).

“I’m one of the cup-half-full people,” declared Sammy, identifying how prevalent the existing use of AI technologies has become in the generation of artwork, video and other content. She also highlighted how the market for AI-generated music has already arrived, and that major labels have been incorporating AI technologies for some time. As always, the key challenge for managers is with audience development – ensuring that an artist retains their resonance in the intersection between machine-made sound and the resolutely human-based world of live music.

“AI can’t take away from the live experience,” she explained. “So while you might be able to build volume and streams online with these technologies – the sacred space of live music and the human experience becomes, in my view, even more valuable. Overall, managers still need to think about nurturing fanbases and building a human connection.”

For Agnieszka, the real impacts of AI are still to be seen. “Existing technology has provided artists with a platform to reach everyone in the world,” she explained. “However, AI will allow everyone to become a musician. Everyone can become a creator, in the same way that the iPhone and Instagram have revolutionised photography.”

Nick weighed in with some of the legal complexities, of which there were many (for instance, can you copyright “a voice”?), as well as some timely advice for managers and their clients.

“Do a legal audit. If you’re a creator and worried about people using your work, then think about your existing deals and what elements already require permission. You probably won’t have an existing AI clause, but there will probably be other approval rights in there. And then for new deals going forward, try to insert new control clauses into your contracts. It’s not a given you’ll get those things agreed, as the companies that control the rights want to exploit those rights, but that’s where there’s currently a tension.”

Where everyone was in full agreement was the urgent need for a licensing framework, and the need for caution and transparency when creative works are ingested for generative use. All timely considerations for our new AI Guide.

A fascinating live AI demonstration by PhD researcher Corey Ford was followed by a second deep-dive discussion led by MMF Vice Chair, Kwame Kwaten and featuring three of the most enterprising current AI start-ups and advocates: Nermina Mumic from Legitary GMBH, music producer Jeff Nang, and C4DM’s Pedro Pereira Sarmento.

Pedro specialises in AI tools for music generation, Jeff offers insights for artists and producers via his highly popular Instagram page, while Nermina is using AI to source holes and mismatches in royalty tracking. (Her claims of identifying $1bn in mismatched royalties drew collective, if not unexpected, gasps…)

What followed was an incredibly compelling conversation about the practical and labour-saving applications of AI, including tips for getting more from Chat GPT and recommendations for services inducing Opus Clip, WavTool, TwoShot and Muse.ai.

Next were quickfire presentations from TikTok’s Lisa Skeppner and Sheena Siddiqi on their latest artist tools and from TwoShot’s Tobi Akinyemi on the game changing prospect of generative AI in music production, before closing remarks and the MMF AGM – opened by Chair, Paul Craig, and including a live “Managers’ Spotlight” interview with MMF board member Vicky Dowdall.

Currently based in her hometown of Newcastle and operating as an independent manager, Vicky began her career as an artist, before establishing VDM Music in 2010. Her current artist clients are Nina Nesbitt and Cody Frost, alongside the songwriter Olivia Sebastianelli. Vicky also manages Ella Henderson in partnership with Mark Hargreaves of Crown Talent & Media Group.

This tailored and flexible approach to music management (“what’s good for the artist is good for the manager,” she quipped. “Have integrity, and have fun.”) has brought Vicky enormous success. Now signed to Atlantic, Ella has landed five Top 10 singles, a Top 10 album, and an Ivor Novello nomination; while Nina has reached a career total of over 1bn streams, sharing stages with the likes of Coldplay and collaborating with the likes of Seeb, R3hab and NOTD along the way.

As well as details of how she straddles work for two different businesses, Vicky also spoke candidly about the challenges facing female managers and parents in music, revealing that she kept her first pregnancy secret until the last possible moment – and this was became a moment of realisation about the importance of self-care and support for mental health.

Vicky also highlighted some of the advantages of being based outside of London, especially with increased investment coming into Newcastle and the North East.

With over 130 in attendance and the MMF membership now numbering over 1500, it was an inspirational conclusion to an inspirational day.

And Vicky’s final advice?
“Join the MMF…”

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