Thoughts from the boss lady

Be watchful for AI gimmicks …

Our flagship band, Rites to Ruin, received an interesting email earlier this week. 

A website claiming to be able to create a page for the band, with all links, analytics and connections to the wider industry, was sent through in a very convincing email to their inbox, stating that they offered:

‘a game-changing tool that’s reshaping how independent musicians like you navigate the music industry. Imagine having a single platform where all your streaming and social media stats are not just displayed, but analysed and transformed into actionable insights.’ 

The email came complete with a link to the full page that showed the band’s imagery, videos and all the platforms they could be found on. It looks very professional at first glance and could be a timesaving opportunity for those who, like the members of Rites to Ruin, have full time jobs and very busy lives outside of the band. 

image of page from a website being questioned on IP standing

 The alarm bells were rung when we noticed this line in the email: Take control of your music career for just $2.99/month, with a 7-day free trial to start

Charging for something we can get for free

You absolutely do not need to pay a company to gather all these analytics for you. If you are on any digital distribution outlet, such as Distrokid, they gather all your streaming analytics as part and parcel of the service they provide, which you likely already pay as part of that service.  All your social platforms offer analytics for free at the point of use. Facebook gathers all META analytics in the Meta Business Suite for Facebook, Instagram and Threads. If you don’t have a Facebook page, you definitely need one. While the organic reach can be hit and miss due to the algorithm, there are tips and tricks around this that we’ll do another blog post on.  

image of examples of metrics from Meta

TiKTok and all other social platforms offer analytics to their users, increased engagement for you means more users for them and, usually, increased income strands all round. Spotify/Apple Music/ Amazon Music for Artists etc also all offer up analytics to their users as part and parcel of their services (this is replicated in your digital distribution analytics from your distribution platform of choice), and most streaming platforms for Artists are free to use to get the basic analytics which are more often more than enough for a grass roots band, whose only real job is to get heard at this stage. So while, yes, this can be a pain going to different sources for your view on how your content is performing there are ways you can put this all in once space for yourself and that’s creating an analytics page with APIs.

I do have to commend them for capitalising on the opportunity to gather most analytics in one place and cannot be angry at them for the type of enterprise they’re launching in of itself but I have strong reservations on how they’ve approached it.

Open Source APIs are often free

An API (Application Programming Interface) is simply a digital key you can add to a page or some web-based platform (like WordPress, Wix etc) which allows you to access the information in a single space. In a nutshell, that is all this company is doing. Based on the webpage they shared with Rites to Ruin, there is nothing there that is new and inspiring. Visiting sites such as Mulesoft (creators of Drupal) or BitBucket often have forums where developers will share such APIs for free as long as you give the necessary credits, provide realtime feedback and bug updates to the developer, and enable them to improve the affect of the API. 

If you’re not sure how to use APIs and create your own dashboard, the forums on such sites will have already well established threads for creating them, or you can employ a developer who can integrate this into your own site and dashboard for a one off fee. That way you can set exactly what and how you want to view the information you’re after, and it’s private to you and your band/business. There is nothing groundbreaking on offer here, so this does feel like a bit of a money hack if I’m honest and an unnecessary additional expenditure for bands barely breaking even as is.  

Always read the Ts&Cs!!!

Image of Terms of Service from website in question

I am a stickler for reading the terms and conditions of anything that is using the intellectual property of my own band or any of the bands we represent via OCR and that’s when the alarm bells began to ring. Firstly they had created a page without our permission, using official photos that were cropped badly (I wish I’d taken a screenshot of that), secondly they had used AI to write the biography of the band, I am sure this was in an effort to avoid us hitting back on accusing them of IP theft though that is exactly what they are doing once you read their Terms of Service. 

Breaking down the seemingly legal jargon here: if you sign up to this platform you grant the company full access to everything they use OF YOURS on this site to manipulate as they see fit. They are not obliged to give you any credit and will not give remuneration to you the artist. They will also use this to help improve not only the services of this site, but ALL sites that this company hold regardless of whether you have any interest in using the additional services and future as un-yet created services. Add to that they will also not hold the company to account if the data you ‘provide’ (you’ve not provided it, they’ve gained it via an API), and that they are not obliged to use the data you provide or confirm it’s accuracy or validity. Equally, they will not be held responsible for any comeback on the data they add to your account but they have said they now hold full rights to, which they also state is an IRREVOCABLE licence…! If your alarm bells aren’t going absolutely mental right now you may need to sit back and re-read all this. 

As an example of how your IP should be taken into account and how to ensure that you retain full rights of your photos data etc, here’s Facebook’s Terms of Service as a comparison:

Image of META's Terms of Service

You retain full ownership of your IP is the first thing they are at pains to point out. They do use similar language to the ‘non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free’ licensing but notice it’s not perpetual or irrevocable. If they make derivative works they take into consideration you application settings and privacy, and while I concur that Meta is somewhat of a necessary evil in the modern world, they are at pains to point out that you maintain full rights.

‘Nothing in these Terms takes away the rights you have to your own content’

I have not found such a clause in the Terms from this analytics processing company and that causes me great concern. 

AI Biographies and AI blogs are a bit of a giveaway

Image of the AI generated text on the website in question

The other red flags that made me immediately request the profile be taken down were the AI written biography and information about Rites to Ruin and the AI generated blogs.  

I have no issue with using something such as Chat GPT to help you get your thoughts down and help formulate the structure your biography but, for the love of metal, read it through, change what is utter bullshit and make it make sense. The information for Rites to Ruin shows that this is a money making hack at best. While the company state that they will work with you to revise the page, please remember their Terms of Service where they state they don’t have to use it and from my limited interactions with the company, I am not convinced they would do any updates to the page while simply reminding users of their ToS. 

Equally, if the company’s blog is full of quickly and closely published blogs of an approximate equal length , check their content too as you will likely find that this is also AI generated and shows a quickly built website or a flurry of updates to an existing platform as a marketing strategy.

Image of the blog post page of the website in question showing AI art in the public domain

AI art is a no no here at Otter Chaos Records and, as we read the blog for this platform, we noticed the propensity towards AI generated art. The posts also show generic similarities and structure to what you’d find in an Chat GPT generated blog post. If they’re not using ChatGPT or alike then I apologise to the content team and would love titbits on how they come up with so many blog posts and how they decided on their formats.

After much digging through their site to see what assurances they gave on our IP rights, we requested they remove our artist page. We had not asked for them to create it, the URL was already live (which can makes others think we own the page when we don’t) and the use of Ai just left a sour taste. The company did try to sway us to stay by asking us to work on the page with them but then also suggesting we remove our pages from other sites (that they kindly gave us the link to) and tried to use the fallacy of ‘unlikely to be found by festivals’ as a way to entice us to stay. We also looked further into the privacy policy for any notice around legal basis for holding our information and they have none so would not be compliant with any GDPR laws in the UK and wider afield.  

Businesses using AI in this fashion leave me wondering if they’re capitalising to make fast money on the hard work of others and with a Terms of Service such as the one above, I can only conclude they have no interest in ensuring artists maintain their rights on their hard work and Intellectual Property and are just looking capitalise on the AI storm that’s unfurling. 

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