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Warner Music CEO: Music moves 'first in most transformations,' and AI is no exception

Music is first in line for an AI transformation, Warner Music Group (WMG) CEO Robert Kyncl told the audience at the 2023 Code Conference.

"Music, because it's so broadly distributed and it's so well aligned with the internet because it's a short format and lends itself to recommendations, it's usually first in most transformations, most innovations," Kyncl said. "It digitized first, so whatever happened in the music industry 20 years ago is just happening to movies and TV shows now. In the meantime, music has come out of it better and stronger and more resilient. So I would imagine the same will happen here [with artificial intelligence]."

Robert Kyncl, CEO of Warner Music Group speaks onstage during Vox Media's 2023 Code Conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel on September 26, 2023 in Dana Point, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media)
Robert Kyncl, CEO of Warner Music Group, speaks onstage during Vox Media's 2023 Code Conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel on Sept. 26, 2023, in Dana Point, Calif. (Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media) (Jerod Harris via Getty Images)

Questions over generative AI in entertainment have been central as Hollywood faces a reckoning from the writers and actors strikes. But according to Kyncl, the music business isn't going through the same crisis.

"Music is much more resilient," he said. "I think what happened in the last 15 years was incredible. We had literally zero people in a subscription model, and now we have 700 million people in the world in a premium experience in a subscription."

Kyncl said that Spotify's (SPOT) Daniel Ek led the charge.

"I think really credit goes to Daniel for forging the path for everybody," he told the audience. "Then, [it was] companies like Apple and YouTube and Amazon following and building out the business. It's pretty incredible, what has happened."

Moving forward, Kyncl explained that the opportunity in the music industry "is twofold" — continued growth in emerging markets coupled with rising GDP in those countries.

"There's lots of growth there," he said, "and then there's the price elasticity optimization in mature markets."

When moderator Nilay Patel asked Kyncl, "Do you want me to pay more?" the Warner Music Group CEO responded that he thinks about it in terms of value.

"The way I look at it is, for $20 you get Netflix for the whole family today," Kyncl said. "I think if you think about ... for $20 the entire family getting all the world's music ever made in the past and in the future, ... it's an incredible deal. ... I think that's a lot of value."

Allie Garfinkle is a Senior Tech Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks and on LinkedIn.

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