Brianna Schwartz and Alexis Schreiber crossed paths on their first day of law school at the University of Miami. They had both signed up for the school’s Masters program in music business and entertainment, and immediately bonded over their shared love of electronic music.
The two women aspired to transform their passions for dance music into careers, legally representing artists, festivals, labels and other major industry players. After all, who better to advise these groups than two fans who were already embedded in the niche world of EDM?
Schwartz and Schreiber set out on a mission to fill a perceived gap between the high number of electronic music artists in Miami and the area’s lack of entertainment lawyers compared to other entertainment meccas, like Los Angeles and New York. So they launched S&S, an entertainment law firm catering to Gen Z, millennial and Gen Alpha clients on both the talent and business sides of the industry.
“It was tunnel vision for both of us, music industry or bust,” said Schwartz, who had previously worked for Ultra Music Festival before co-founding S&S, where she serves as a partner. “It was a constant passion and we thought, ‘How can we be a part of this from a business perspective? How can we make an impact and help these young artists cultivate their careers strategically?'”
S&S now works with DJs, producers, songwriters, vocalists and digital influencers, as well as music festivals, record labels, production companies and recording studios. Of their music industry clients, they say at least 50% are based in the electronic space. Among their impressive roster are Ricky Mears, who produces music as NITTI and is half of the Grammy-nominated SIDEPIECE duo, and EDM.com Class of 2021 star Moore Kismet, among others.
The duo’s shared love for electronic music, Schwartz says, has given them a sharp and competitive edge in their field. The two now provide legal advice with regards to the use of sampling and new technology, as well as help handle negotiations when artists land a label deal and many other complex issues on the business side of the music industry.
One of the most nuanced issues that Schwartz and Schreiber handle today is protecting their clients from the potentially harmful implications of artificial intelligence.
“AI is affecting all of the music industry, but we are seeing it come up in various ways in electronic music that’s different from other genres,” explained Schwartz, who says her clients are curious about today’s influx of generative AI music platforms.
The lawyers said that some industry players continue to take an anti-AI approach, fearing that it will interfere with human artistry. However, Schreiber noted that on the other side of that coin, there’s a willingness to explore the boundless possibilities of how AI can be implemented in a way that does not impede on the intellectual property of others.
“We have seen a split there and we are finding a way to be respectful on both sides, while figuring out how to pave the way forward and enable our clients to utilize AI in a way that won’t cause problems for them down the road,” Schreiber told EDM.com.
Schwartz agreed that the most important thing is figuring out how to help their clients use AI in a “protective and smart way.”
“Just like with any form of technology, if we refuse to embrace it, we risk inhibiting growth and creation,” Schwartz said. “We can accept AI and its application in the music industry by finding ways to assist our clients to utilize such tools in a manner that does not impede on the rights of third parties. This, along with finding new ways for our clients to capitalize, such as licensing their voices to legitimate AI platforms, is exciting for us.”
While AI can present new opportunities for artists—and no one wants to be left in the dust—the two lawyers fully acknowledge the limitations and potential dangers of using AI.
“To be able to utilize these tools to help facilitate the creative process is exciting, so long as the industry respects the need to license and properly retrieve authorization to use any other artist’s voice or works,” they added.
Perhaps the biggest downside of using AI, the two agreed, is that its use is currently unregulated.
“Copyright law is very much behind where it should be, so there isn’t a lot of guidance for how to handle these scenarios,” Schwartz says. “We are doing a lot to take a risk-averse approach when our clients are utilizing these technologies.”
Schreiber agreed that the technology is moving much faster than the laws dictating its regulation. This lack of regulation has allowed S&S to offer effective solutions to protect their clients.
One of the most pressing points the two lawyers make when advising their clients about the use of AI is that artists must own as much of their work as possible. If an artist utilizes AI to make a track, it becomes increasingly difficult to retain the rights.
“You can’t copyright without human creativity,” Schwartz said. “We are very big proponents of owning your own masters, retaining as many points as possible and keeping your IP closed. Remember, we are dealing with a lot of young clients in their early 20s who may want to sell their catalog in 30 years. If you don’t own your rights and pay for everything, you have nothing to sell because everything you have is intangible.”
So what can artists do to protect themselves? “Make sure you have as much human input as possible, so we can actually copyright this stuff,” Schwartz advised.
The duo has adopted a stance similar to how they would handle the legal use of samples in recorded music. Platforms for music sampling were a major industry disruptor and ultimately served as a harbinger of the advent of AI tools, the two agreed. Making sure people are properly compensated is one of their top priorities.
“Let’s be overly certain that we have the proper rights. Let’s support other artists and pay them for the use of their voice,” said Schwartz. “If our artists are looking to use other platforms that incorporate AI, let’s do our due diligence to confirm that site is properly licensing the IP that their systems train off of.”
When it comes to exploring new music production tools and tech, Schreiber advises her clients to always take a deeper look into the platform before using it. While many of the AI tools appear user-friendly on the surface level, they can come with detrimental downsides. Artists can easily put themselves at major risk if they don’t secure proper licensing, the duo explained.
Overall, Schwartz and Schreiber said they believe that people tend to underestimate the potential harms of AI because the technology is so nascent, and most aren’t yet privy to the consequences. Despite its uncertainty, their stance remains firm.
“A lot of people are scared. We’re not,” said Schwartz. “Let’s embrace it and help our clients get to the next level.”
“I think everyone is so scared that AI threatens to dehumanize music,” Schreiber adds. “As avid music lovers and people passionate about the music industry ourselves, it’s important to maintain that while understanding where things are going. Let’s be on the forefront because we can’t wait for anybody else to do it.”
When looking ahead to the future, Schwartz and Schreiber share some key predictions about how the use of AI will continue to play out in the electronic music space. They are wary of market oversaturation and how it may impact the industry.
Schwartz believes it could manifest by making it harder for artists to reach new audiences, unless they’re continuously releasing music every few weeks. They explained how the industry’s increasingly content-heavy approach puts immense pressure on artists.
Something the lawyers already notice, which they say will likely continue and even get worse in the future, is how streaming services adjust their payment rates based on the number of streams a track has amassed.
“These kids need to figure out how they’re going to keep up with that or they’re going to lose out,” Schwartz said. “It is a concern on the talent side. But, on the content side, it is creating opportunity on the business perspective. It is interesting because we represent both talent and businesses within the industry, so we can see it from both sides. We hope to help advocate for artists if royalty collection continues to change and artists are not able to collect the way they should.”
One collective vision Schwartz and Schreiber agree on is the increasing use of AI across major publishers and record labels. They said that many of the industry’s top players are actively exploring ways to imbue AI into their business model, and the creator economy will adopt the tech en masse the more advanced it becomes.
Schreiber said that artist contracts from record labels will start to include clauses that address the use of AI, including the usage of an artist’s name, voice or likeness. Schreiber’s biggest piece of advice for artists in the EDM space is to fully understand what’s in their agreements, especially when signing with a label.
“If artists don’t have language in their agreement that protects out-of-scope use of an their name, image and likeness without additional compensation or approval, it could leave them at someone else’s mercy. All of a sudden you could see your voice on some platform, only to find out later that you authorized it through your agreement. Artists need to be overly vigilant in that regard,” Schwartz said.
Schreiber leaves us with one more morsel of wisdom for artists about the use of AI.
“Artists who are growing need to find the balance between creativity and individuality, and innovation and technology. That balance is the way to go with using AI from an ethical perspective. It’s a whole new world and something that needs to be treated carefully. Creativity needs to be preserved in its truest form because that’s the magic of music.”