“How are you going to stop AI from stealing our jobs?”

Volume 124, No. 4April, 2024

William Meade


NOTE: The AI Advisory Committee mentioned in my first article was created by Local 802 President Sara Cutler to explore policy options and  help educate the membership. Currently, the president’s office is assembling the committee. This committee’s focus is educating members on both the benefits and hazards of AI’s already strong presence in our workplaces. Interested in joining? Contact Local 802 President Sara Cutler for more info.

After my previous article that appeared in the March edition of Allegro “Unleashing Creativity: Exploring Generative AI’s Impact on the Music Industry,” the most asked question that I received was, “How are you going to stop AI from stealing our jobs?”

The arrival of generative AI is a complete game changer in the way that we approach the creation and the business of music. In order to develop an effective plan of action, we need to have an understanding of how our industry has changed, the technology and who the players are.

Over the coming months, I will turn to some of the leading minds in the AI revolution for their thoughts. The first is Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at the NYU Stern School of Business. He’s also a best-selling author, business leader and entrepreneur.

Scott wrote an essay called “Frenemies” that addressed the recent negotiations and strikes by the writers and actors, and the role of Big Tech. Below are some excerpts from that article (used by permission).

Scott writes:

“The studios’ real enemy isn’t a pair of naive, shortsighted unions, or one another, or streaming. Their antagonist isn’t even TikTok, though the short-video company will be happy to absorb the additional viewing hours once people have to adjust their habits. (Pro tip: Late-night TV will soon be a shadow of itself as consumers find substitutes.) The enemy is the same enemy as the rest of media, and retail face, Big Tech. Specifically, in this case, Big Tech AI offerings that will digest content (at zero cost if they have their way) and wedge themselves between the consumer and repurposed content.

“The focus of the WGA, SAG-AFTRA, and the studios should be capturing compensation for the coal powering these AI plants and demanding IP protection for their digital twin(s). (More on this later.) Their thinking is too small. The real threat is not studios using AI, but studios being replaced by AI. If you think the studios are mendacious, let me introduce you to…Big Tech.

“To appreciate how precarious the studios’ position is, consider what they actually do. It’s not making movies and TV shows. Writers, actors, directors, and an army of skilled laborers do that. No, the primary function of the studio in today’s ecosystem is to allocate capital to projects that offer the greatest ROI. This means having a stomach for losing capital. A lot of capital, in the hope that one hit will pay for all the misses. The secret to the greatest creation of shareholder value is simple: Tech inserts itself between consumers and content.

“This often means creating a layer of innovation on top of other people’s content. They alloy disparate and independently valueless pieces of data into something worth more.

“And the studios have paved the way by converting their business into something that runs on the regurgitation of pre-existing IP, which is AI’s best trick.

“You can’t stop the universal substance, but you can direct it and insert yourself in between Big Tech and how it makes money. The studios, in cooperation with the writers and actors they depend on, ironically, to make their business cost prohibitive, should hire competent, aggressive law firms.

“One area of opportunity is the Section 230 liability shield that protects social media platforms and other online publishers from liability stemming from the user-generated content they distribute. In my view, we should remove Section 230 protection for AI-generated content.

“Too often, we sabotage our own happiness letting familiarity and dysfunction turn allies into perceived enemies. We inflate our contributions to a relationship, while diminishing the other party’s. We let familiarity and contempt best our shared history. Your spouse, your parents, Republicans and Democrats, other Americans, other democracies, writers and studios. All allies. We’re in this together.”

Scott’s assessment has many parallels to our own. Let’s make sure to learn from, and share with, industries that are in a similar situation to our own.

What can we do?

Musicians and their unions have several strategies at their disposal to protect their intellectual property and creativity in the face of rapidly advancing AI and big tech companies. These strategies aim to ensure fair compensation, control over their work, and legal protections.

Here are some measures we should consider:

Advocacy and lobbying

Legislation: Work towards advocating for stronger IP laws that explicitly cover the unique challenges posed by AI, including the unauthorized use of music to train AI systems.

International standards and regulations: Engage in lobbying for international agreements or standards to protect artists’ rights worldwide, especially given the global nature of technology companies.

Legal action

Copyright registration: Encourage members to register their works, providing a legal foundation for any infringement claims.

Litigation: Pursue legal action against entities that use their music without permission, setting precedents for the protection of artists’ rights against AI and tech companies.

Negotiation and partnerships

Licensing agreements: Negotiate collective licensing agreements with tech companies that want to use their music, ensuring fair compensation.

Partnerships: Some unions might explore partnerships with tech companies to develop AI systems that benefit musicians, such as tools for music creation or platforms that fairly compensate artists for their contributions.

Education and awareness

Workshops and seminars: Offer training for musicians on protecting their IP in the digital age, including understanding the implications of AI on their work.

Public awareness campaigns: Raise awareness about the importance of protecting artists’ rights in the era of AI, potentially swaying public opinion and consumer behavior in favor of ethical practices.

Technology solutions

Digital watermarking: Encourage the use of technologies like digital watermarking to trace and manage the use of their work online.

Blockchain: Explore the use of blockchain for copyright management and to create transparent, unchangeable records of ownership and licensing transactions.

Union solidarity/collective bargaining

Utilize collective bargaining power to negotiate with employers and platforms about the use of AI in ways that could affect musicians’ work and rights, such as the AFM’s recent contract with AMPTP.

International collaboration

Work with unions in other countries and international federations to present a unified front against the misuse of their work by global tech companies.

These strategies require a multi-faceted approach, combining legal, technological, and advocacy efforts. It’s also vital for musicians and their unions to stay informed about the evolving landscape of AI and technology to adapt their strategies accordingly.

Collaboration among artists, legal experts, and policymakers will be crucial in navigating these challenges and protecting the rights and creativity of musicians in the digital age. Over the coming months we will be hearing from experts in all these areas as they contribute articles and join forums.

So, the answer to the original question is not what I can do to stop AI from stealing our jobs, but what can we all do…and do it now.

Local 802 will be announcing open membership forums shortly which we hope you will attend. In the meantime, check out Local 802’s ongoing AI resource page of articles and research papers to get educated about AI. Stay tuned.

Sitting on the sidelines is not an option. Get involved.

To find out more about Scott Galloway and to read more of his insightful articles please visit his website and listen to his podcast.

Multi-instrumentalist William Meade, a member of Local 802 since 1979, is the chair of the union’s new AI Advisory Committee. William is a seasoned performer and producer with over three decades of experience in television, Broadway, concerts and global events. During the last 12 months, he has spent considerable time and effort on understanding the accelerating impact AI is having across all professions, including that of musician’s. His knowledge of AI encompasses practical, academic and regulatory aspects, all of which continue to evolve at a rapid pace. E-mail William Meade at: