The publisher who owns the songwriting copyrights for some of the most popular music ever recorded believes that AI won’t bring doom to the industry.
Today, I’m having a conversation with Golnar Khosrowshahi, the founder and CEO of Reservoir Media, a contemporary record label that I believe resembles the future of the music industry.
AI and Music Are Heading Towards a Collision
You might not be familiar with Reservoir, but you’ve definitely heard of the artists it collaborates with, including A-ha, John Denver, Evanescence, Joni Mitchell, and even legendary film composer Hans Zimmer. What sets Reservoir apart is that Golnar grew the company through acquisitions.
While a traditional record label usually scouts new talent in dive bars and works to break emerging artists, Reservoir follows a different approach. It acquires catalogs of already successful songs from established artists. Reservoir holds the songwriting copyrights for approximately 150,000 songs and an additional 30,000 copyrights in master recordings.
Navigating the Music Industry Landscape with Golnar Khosrowshahi
As Golnar clarifies, Reservoir considers each of these individual songs as assets. After acquiring them, the company focuses on finding ways to monetize these assets. This is a business based on copyright, which faces challenges in an era where copyright is under significant scrutiny. These challenges include familiar issues on social platforms like TikTok and YouTube, as well as new existential concerns arising from generative AI tools. We’ve all heard of fake Drake, which is poised to disrupt copyright law, and it’s the music industry that typically takes the lead in responding to these changes.
Golnar established Reservoir in 2007. She has extensive experience in this industry and has witnessed numerous tech-related changes over the years. However, today, large corporations and private equity firms are investing heavily in the same catalog-based business model, often with unfavorable outcomes.
Golnar points out that it seems like all her competitors have a billion dollars to invest in songs. We also discuss a company called Hipgnosis, which spent a significant amount of money building an extensive catalog but now faces discontent among its shareholders because the catalog’s value didn’t meet the promised expectations.
Certainly, Golnar and I also discussed AI and the training of AI systems. Many record labels express discontent over their copyrighted material being utilized to train generative AI tools. Furthermore, many artists are even more dissatisfied with their voices being employed by AI systems. Golnar has some thought-provoking perspectives on this matter, and she shared an enlightening example that will make you reconsider the issues of profit distribution.
If you’re a Decoder listener, you’re aware that I enjoy pondering the music industry. Whatever impact technology has on music, it tends to influence other industries five years down the road. Therefore, keeping a close eye on the music sector is, in my view, the best way to stay ahead of the curve. Additionally, I have a deep passion for music myself.
Golnar is a musician herself, and it’s evident that she holds a strong appreciation for music. She has clearly devoted substantial thought to what lies ahead. Our conversation was truly enjoyable.