Ok, now that the pre-launch for my new course on AI for musicians is out of the way. I thought I’d shift gears and write a blog post more focused on the human side of making music and the music business.
Last Friday I saw the band Wilco in Guadalajara, Mexico. Wilco, in case you’re not familiar with the band, is a band from Chicago, where I’m from, that was founded in 1993. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico these days and Guadalajara is about a four-hour drive north of Puerto Vallarta so when I saw they were playing nearby I told my girlfriend, who had never heard of Wilco, we have to go.
I spent the next week bringing her up to speed on all my favorite Wilco songs and she seemed to genuinely like their music. Throughout the week she would send me her favorite Wilco songs as she discovered them. I invited a friend from Portland, who brought his girlfriend along, and the four of us made the trek together to Guadalajara to see Wilco.
Seeing Wilco live in Mexico was a really special experience for me for a few different reasons. For one, I simply love Wilco. I discovered them around 2002 when their album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot came out and listened to their music incessantly for several years straight. Yet for some reason, despite them being from Chicago and me living in Chicago, I never saw them live during this time. To get to see them my first time in Mexico was pretty wild.
Secondly, seeing them perform for a mainly younger and primarily Mexican audience was pretty surreal. There were probably around 1,500 people in attendance and the crowd seemed to be true Wilco fans that responded enthusiastically to both new and old material.
For example, there was a Mexican guy behind me, probably about 25 years old, who sang along, word for word, to every single song of the show. This is the power of music and the internet, that transcends cultures, age and geography. At one point during the show, I turned around, saw this kid singing along, smiling ear to ear, I smiled at him back and we both high fived. No words exchanged. No words needed.
About halfway through the show, Jeff Tweedy, Wilco’s lead singer, acknowledged the crowd and said, “Thanks for inviting us Guadalajara. It only took 30 years”. Something about that simple statement struck me as profound. Wilco is a band, that has been together a long time and although they aren’t as commercially successful as say, The Rolling Stones or Taylor Swift, they just keep doing what they do, and slowly over time, they’ve developed a following around the world.
This sort of relationship that bands develop with their fans is something AI will never be able to replicate. There’s a lot of concern about the impact AI will have on the music industry, and of course, many other industries. Some of the concerns are well founded. AI will most likely disrupt and transform the music industry, as it will many industries. As always, change is inevitable. AI will definitely change many aspects of the music industry, in ways that I don’t think any of us fully comprehend yet, which is why I'm doing my best to stay on top of AI and how it's transforming the industry.
However, I can’t imagine a scenario in which AI will be able to replicate what I witnessed and experienced on Friday night. Live music remains the one aspect of the music industry that technology simply can’t replace. Writing and creating music and then having that music connect with an audience on an emotional level is a distinctly human experience. I actually teared up during one of the songs they performed on Friday, I was so moved. I’ve yet to shed a tear over any AI created art, although some it is pretty cool.
Here are a few clips I captured from the show on Friday.
Here’s a clip of Wilco’s guitarist, Nels Cline, who by the way is 67 years old (he joined Wilco when he was 49), tearing it up at the end of his solo to their song “Impossible Germany”.
I’d like to see AI do this!
Next, one of my favorite songs of the night, their beautiful song “Hummingbird”. What a great songwriter and lyricist Jeff Tweedy is! Here are just a few lyrics from this beautiful song. Even if AI could write lyrics like this it would take a human to feel them and relate to them.
His goal in life was to be an echo
The type of sound that floats around
And then back down like a feather
But in the deep chrome canyons of the loudest Manhattans
No one could hear him
So he slept on a mountain
In a sleeping bag underneath the stars
He would lie awake and count them
And the gray fountain spray of the great Milky Way
Would never let him die alone
Remember to remember me
Standing still in your past
Floating fast like a hummingbird
As we approach the end of another year, and I approach the milestone of turning 50 years old next year, I find myself reflecting a lot on my relationship with music and its role in my life.
Most of the blogs I send out to my subscribers are focused on the more technical aspects of the music business and how to make money licensing music and so on. After all, that is the point of the newsletter and this website, and that is why you subscribed. I aim to provide the type of information you're seeking that will help you reach your goals.
But first and foremost, I’m a musician who loves making and playing music. From time to time, I like to send out blogs like this that really illustrate how much I actually love music and making music and what a huge role it plays in my life.
These days, I find myself playing more and more live shows and actually enjoying the entire experience more. I've reached a point where I just love playing music for the sheer thrill of playing music and it's a great social outlet for me as well. And if Nels Cline from Wilco can still rock out at 67 years old, then there’s no excuse for me to not keep playing at my age! It's also one of the few straightforward ways left in the music business to make money. I play a gig and I get paid cash at the end of the night. I like the simplicity of it.
At this point in my life, I’ve come to two conclusions about music and the music business. One, the music business is much harder than I thought it would be, when I started out so many years ago. And number two, I love music much more than I ever realized, which is why I keep chasing this crazy dream after all these years.
I'll leave you with a clip of me playing in a promo video for my new rock/blues guitar duo I've been performing in, with a great local musician here in Puerto Vallarta, Emilio Prado.