ASCAP Hosts Annual Meeting, A.I. Symposium

ASCAP, The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, held its 2023 Annual Meeting – and a special AI Symposium aimed at addressing the opportunities and challenges that artificial intelligence presents for music creators – on Wednesday, July 19th, at the Director’s Guild of America Theater in Midtown Manhattan.

The day began with the Annual Meeting, during which ASCAP leaders Chairman of the Board & President Paul Williams, Chief Executive Officer Elizabeth Matthews and The ASCAP Foundation Executive Director Nicole George-Middleton reported on ASCAP’s “state of our union,” discussed the impact of AI for ASCAP and its members and detailed the work of the ASCAP Foundation. 

In his remarks, Williams acknowledged the role that music creation plays in fueling larger industries and the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild of America strikes: “Many writers and actors are struggling to earn a living because the streaming business model, which continues to evolve, has been so disruptive for the whole entertainment industry. We echo and support their cause!”

Beth Matthews, ASCAP CEO (Credit: Ryan Lash for ASCAP)

As she described the organization’s six principles guiding its response to AI, Matthews referenced ASCAP’s long experience with new technologies and also urged creators to engage: "AI is threatening creators' rights and we must act expeditiously. We don't have time for infighting in the entertainment industry because AI is at our doorstep and it presents an existential threat; we must stick together on behalf of all creators and act now."

The Annual Meeting was followed by legendary emcee Black Sheep Dres (of Black Sheep / Native Tongues) and the NYC-based DJ SYLK, who came together to celebrate 50 years of hip-hop with performances of songs including “Flavor of the Month” and “The Choice is Yours.”

“ASCAP has personally saved my life at least a dozen times… ASCAP’s like we got you, keep doing what you’re doing,” said Dres.

Following the Meeting, the AI Symposium was kicked off by ASCAP Chief Strategy and Digital Officer Nick Lehman before launching into the first panel, “Navigating AI: Evolving Legal and Policy Frameworks.” The session went deep into the legal implications of how creators can protect their work as AI models proliferate, with panelists US Copyright Office Assistant General Counsel John Riley; Dan Schnapp of law firm Sheppard Mullin; and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison partner Katherine Forrest. The discussion was moderated by Shelly Palmer, CEO of The Palmer Group and Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. During the hour-long panel, each speaker provided valuable insights into how the legal community and copyright experts are navigating the quick advancements of AI. “This is the most transformative moment that I’ve ever lived through,” said Forrest. “The velocity of change that we’re seeing is extraordinary. There’s great opportunity and also reasons to be cautious.” 

The next panel was “How Creators Are Unlocking the Potential of AI.” Moderated by entrepreneur, author, and Collective Entertainment partner Emily White, the discussion turned attention from the legal questions of AI toward how creators can benefit and thrive using this technology. Panelists included ASCAP member and composer Derrick Skye, fellow member, educator and electronic instrument creator Douglas Geers, and CEO/Co-founder of WaveAI Maya Ackerman, and their discussion focused on both the exciting possibilities and creative challenges music-makers face in the dawn of this technological revolution. “One of the most amazing things about AI is the ability to explore the creative space of possibilities,” said Ackerman. “It fits with sitting there on the guitar or the piano. You seed it with some of your ideas and it just blows up the possibilities.” 
Learn more at www.ascap.com