🔵 The Hipgnosis saga continues and YouTube works on AI voice cloning
The house really does win after all.
In yesterday’s edition, I argued that Hipgnosis - and particularly Merck Mercuriadis and his team - were in a position where the house always wins. My point yesterday was that the only way this could change in the face of an serious underperformance on the part of the publicly-traded Hipgnosis Songs Fund (HSF) might be if Merck and co were unseated from their position as the management agent - aka Hipgnosis Song Management (HSM) - for this fund.
Today, MBW broke the news that in fact, if HSF does exercise that right, HSM has the right to acquire HSF’s portfolio. All of it.
The house always wins.
As MBW confirms, HSF’s board has confirmed that it is looking into the management of HSF by HSM, and that it also called for the clause allowing HSM acquisition rights to be removed.
HSM has - unsurprisingly - refused.
I have to admit that I find the cast-iron set up here to be quite the work of genius. Right now, any outcome ends with Merck and HSM winning.
Something I noticed with a lot of the sales to Hipgnosis was a narrative to the effect of “Merck understands artists and we trust his vision”. There’s potentially more truth to that than I originally thought, because if Mercuriadis does indeed get to buy the assets back from HSF in the event of it failing, he remains in place to protect that catalogue, preventing it from falling into the hands of others.
Framed in that light, it’s quite a stunning move. Let’s see how the story continues to rumble on in coming weeks.
Elsewhere, news is leaking that YouTube is prepping a tool that would allow it users to replicate the voices of famous musicians whilst recording audio. I suspect this is may relate to the recent deal it made with Universal, such that the latter is compensated accordingly.
In many respects, it’s a bold move for both parties, plotting a path that you tend to see among “do it now and ask permission later” startups, for example. In that context then, it’s pretty smart for YouTube to stake it’s spot in this space, in a move that presumably might give it a USP in its ongoing battle with TikTok for the attention of teens in particular.
I get the sense that AI is polarising into two camps: the “quick, easy creation” space that I’d argue YouTube’s tool might sit in, and the “functionally advanced creative tool” space where artists and professional creatives might find additional utility (with recent examples being things like Synplant 2’s function allowing you to turn any sample into a fully tuned synth patch).
The important thing now is just to control the speed of development here. A recurring point I have been hearing from people in various industries now is simply that AI is moving too fast, making it extremely hard to keep up relative to law, company policies and more. Whether things will slow down in the name of actually retaining some control here remains to be seen, but I’d argue it will become more necessary over time.
Have a great evening,
PS - I am taking a short break so the next edition will come on Wednesday next week. Also, thank you to those who pointed out that the stories in the “Need something else to read?” section were not working. These have been corrected in the online versions of Tuesday and Wednesday’s editions, so click both links to find those if you’d like to. And if you do spot any errors in future editions of Network Notes, please do feel free to let me know. Thanks! 🙏🏻
🎶 listening to “Dub Techno - Choicest Cuts”, a Spotify playlist myself and my colleague Stone put together recently. This whole sound is quite Marmite - i.e. you either like it, or you don’t. If you do, take a listen as you’ll be in for a treat; nearly 5hrs of the best dubby minimal techno gems.
🤖 playing with Drambo, an iOS-based modular groovebox and sequencer that is probably best described as what would happen if you crossed a modular synth setup with an Octatrack. Incredible stuff.
Stories from the Music Industry:
Hipgnosis Songs Fund confirms that Merck Mercuriadis has an option to buy all of its rights if his investment advisory company is terminated
Within the announcement of its Strategic Review being undertaken, HSF revealed the following: “The [HSF] Board has asked the Investment Adviser [i.e. HSM] to remove the clause in the Investment Advisory Agreement related to the call option entitling it to acquire the Company’s portfolio on termination of its contract, which the Investment Adviser has declined to accept.” So there you have it: HSF has officially confirmed to its investors that Merck Mercuriadis and HSM do indeed have an ongoing “call option” to acquire the assets of Hipgnosis Songs Fund should HSF terminate the contract of HSM as its investment adviser.
👆🏻Hot take: stunning. My comment that “the house always wins” yesterday has now been fully validated.
Utopia co-founder Mattias Hjelmstedt, who has been leading Utopia as its Executive Chairman since February 2023, will step down from his executive position and resume his former role as Chairman of the Board. In a statement issued on Thursday (October 19), Hjelmstedt said that he “stepped into the role as Executive Chairman to guide Utopia through a tough but necessary transformation that was brought on by changed market conditions”.
👆🏻Hot take: change was necessary here, as Utopia has been on a persistent downward curve for a long, long time now.
The video streaming giant has reportedly approached music companies to obtain the rights to train its new AI tool on songs from their music catalogs. No deals have yet been signed by any major record label, but Bloomberg’s sources claim that discussions between parties are currently ongoing.
👆🏻Hot take: I wonder if this relates to YouTube’s deal with Universal to develop AI-related features at all? It seems logical that it might.
European mobility service platform FREENOW has pledged to donate £1 (USD $1.20) for every ride to support grassroots live music venues. Under the Ride for Music campaign, FREENOW’s goal is to raise a guaranteed minimum of £200,000 (USD $243,000) to bolster venues hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis. This initiative targets venues that may not have access to other forms of financial aid.
👆🏻Hot take: great to see. I only wish more companies - music ones specifically - would come on board with similar initiatives.
Universal Music filed a lawsuit against Anthropic, accusing the AI startup of widespread copyright infringement of song lyrics
The legal document goes on to emphasize that in the process of developing and operating AI models, Anthropic has illicitly copied and distributed substantial quantities of copyrighted content. It draws a parallel with historical technological advancements, stressing that AI companies, like their predecessors, such as the inventors of the printing press and the copy machine, are bound by the law and must adhere to copyright regulations.
👆🏻Hot take: to be expected. Universal (and indeed any other rights holder) need to show where the boundaries are around AI, and this will only happen through things like this.
Stories from the Broader World of Tech
OpenAI is launching wider availability of its latest text-to-image generator. On Thursday, the company is giving ChatGPT Plus and Enterprise customers access to the new DALL-E 3 model that works within the ChatGPT app. OpenAI says it has prepared a safety mitigation stack for the model that makes it ready for an expanded release.
👆🏻Hot take: I’ve had access to this for a week now and I’m loving it. A far, far more capable model than the previous one. I still recommend getting a Plus account if you can and playing with this, the plugins and the data analytics tool. They’re all fantastic.
That most watertight of sources, "a person familiar with the matter," told Insider that Musk "has discussed simply removing the app's availability in the region, or blocking users in the European Union from accessing it," much like how Meta's Threads declined to launch in the EU because it was unwilling and/or unable to meet the union's onerous data protection and privacy requirements.
👆🏻Hot take: I’d love to see it get pulled. It would drive uptake on things like Bluesky and that would be amazing. Bring it on.
Specifically, these channels will be available for Pages on Facebook, and they’re in testing now. Those who manage the official page for a celebrity or a company, for example, will be able to start a channel directly from the page. Those who wish to join a broadcast channel will be able to do so directly from any specific page.
👆🏻Hot take: a logical addition I guess, but in the context of music I’m not sure how powerful a role Facebook Pages actually play now.
Need something else to read? Here you go:
In this article, we’ll walk you through the entire process, from selecting the right AI model to understanding the legalities involved. We’ll also compare some of the most popular AI tools for creating song covers, so you can make an informed decision.
👆🏻Hot take: I contemplated not including this for obvious reasons, but I firmly believe in a “better the devil you know” approach here, so this is a fine guide to exactly how songs get copied using AI.
Have you ever dreamed of being a castaway? There’s an industry to cater to your desire.
👆🏻Hot take: for some reason this doesn’t surprise me at all. In a world full of noise and distraction, the appeal of rejecting it all for a period seems understandable.
Embedded in a cell phone or in accessories such as rings, bracelets or watches, the novel tools aim to make it easier to manage hypertension. But they must still pass several tests before hitting the clinic.
👆🏻Hot take: I’m fascinated by this whole space, and feel in time we’ll have far, far more means to measure our own health.
The latest from Motive Unknown’s world:
Dance icons, rave legends, trance pioneers - Underworld are back and have released the full version of their recent single, ‘denver luna’, after teasing us all with the acappella earlier this month. The follow-up was certainly worth the wait; a cavernous anthem for these colder months in which club season is now in full swing.
We've been working on the digital ad strategy and spend on this exciting project. Hit play above to get your fix.
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