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AI is disrupting the creative industry, legislation will be critical in protecting ownership

Pause for a moment and imagine listening to radio and a new song by the legendary ‘kadongo kamu’ singer, Paul Kafeero.

Kafeero has been dead for the last 17 years. The song is off his 2024 album on which he has collaborated with Winnie Nwagi, Eddy Kenzo or any other artiste that appeals to millennials and Gen Zs. Imagine there was an upcoming concert where you could go and watch Kafeero perform his new songs.

The hysteria would be of epic proportions. It would possibly be the most attended musical event in Uganda ever. We live in a world where all this is possible today, attributed to the power of artificial intelligence (AI) – intelligence exhibited by computer systems. In recent years, AI has made inroads in many aspects of life. The leaps in AI development have been expedited by competitive pressure among tech giants and AI-leaning startups.

AI’s influence has not spared the creative industry. In fact, many have argued this is the field where human capacity will be replaced the most. One of the trending songs in Uganda now is Masavu, which features the late Mowzey Radio and Azawi, one of the artistes under Swangz Avenue’s roster. AI created the song.

Nothing best demonstrates the magnitude at which AI is redefining the creative arts like the case of Masavu. When the song was released, it prompted an obvious reaction within the public. ‘Radio died six years ago. How is he featured on a remix to a song released in 2024?’ Good question.

Chatbots have the ability to write a song, generate the melody and beat (track) but most interestingly, emulate voices of today’s popular musicians. AI can write a million songs or film scripts before a human finishes one. It can also create its own human-like images (photos and videos).

You have to imagine what that means for screenwriters, songwriters, visual content creators, models, actors, authors, journalists and all other creative writers. As an entity whose core business falls in the creative realm - music, film, marketing, events management, music distribution and advertising - Swangz Avenue is alive to the reality that the ground is shifting.

Which is why we have integrated AI tools into many aspects across our touchpoints. We utilize AI for data analysis and visualization for our events to understand attendee data patterns so we are able to tailor future events such as marketing strategies.

The latest edition of ‘Roast n Rhyme’ (the picnic-style event that is about music and lifestyle) was the best attended we have had in all the nine years, with all the artistes delivering electrifying performances and an enhanced experience for all attendees. This success is an outcome of analyses of the data from AI tools overtime.

AI is a $207 billion industry with an estimated growth rate of 37.3 per cent over the next seven years. We cannot ignore such a movement. To position ourselves for the AI-driven future, we have had to dedicate a team of interns up streamed from the Swangz Academy to working on AI and content.

This team engages in constant research to innovate new ways we can incorporate the tools in our workflow. The Swangz Academy has also expanded its courses to include talent management, event management and prompt engineering.

Often protruding in the debate on AI are the voices that project woe unto those employed in the creative industry. If you ask me whether this renders the human psyche in the creative process obsolete, I disagree. Technology will not replace the human, whose ingenuity has stretched the possibilities of imagination and storytelling over the years.

History has proved repeatedly that humans and technology can coexist and this is not going to change with AI. However, every useful invention ever made has been abused in equal measure. AI will not be any different.

For creatives, the grey area is impersonation and violation of intellectual property. Circling back to the hit song Masavu, one would ask ‘If AI empowers anyone with access to a computer to manipulate people’s voices, lyrics or sound to make new creations that they proceed to earn from, what’s the fate of the bonafide creators?’

This is where legislation comes in. Creatives’ intellectual property needs to be protected. Some countries are leading the way. The European Union (EU) has approved the world’s first major set of regulatory ground rules to govern artificial intelligence.

It is time Uganda formulated a law on the same. One of the arguments for reforms in the obsolete copyright law is that it (law) should address the influence that digital technology has on the arts. Government must appreciate that this is a critical industry, which has significant potential to spur economic and social growth.

The writer is the chief executive officer at Swangz Avenue, a pioneering talent management and production house

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