I’ve shared a few times on here some concerns I have with AI. There are good things coming, but probably some bad things too. You’d be wise to spend time with AI tools and start learning how they work, but it’s not time to freak out over it yet.
Back in 1999, the record labels were freaking out. Napster was the cause of it, and perhaps rightfully so, but the labels let their fear spread into weird areas.
With Napster, the record labels essentially did nothing other than try to stop it. No innovation, no new ideas, just lawsuits. Fortunately for them, Apple and Pandora (and later Spotify and others) found ways to make them money in the new world.
Around the time that this was going, there was a site growing in popularity known as OLGA: The OnLine Guitar Archive. It was huge database of guitar chords so you could learn to play your favorite songs. While their use of lyrics on the site was indeed illegal, it was a weird fight for the record labels to make, since it wasn’t competing with a paid alternative. The labels chose to fight anyhow, and they got OLGA shut down.
Around the same time, I ran a very popular Christian music guitar site with similar content (lyrics + chords to popular songs) and faced the same issues from record labels. I sold the site years ago, and it finally shut down last year (2022).
From this first-hand view, three interesting things happened while running that site during the Napster days:
- In speaking with a record exec on the phone once, he admitted that our site was good for their business. Churches pay license fees for contemporary music on Sunday mornings, and we were feeding into that and helping their bottom line. Still, he said he “just couldn’t let us keep showing the lyrics”, but with no reason why.
- I also would sometimes showcase new music on the site that I enjoyed. I wouldn’t share the music itself, but just talk about an album and show a photo of the album cover with a link for people to go buy the CD. With around 25,000 daily users, it likely sold a good number of albums for them. I was told to remove the pictures of the album covers because they were under copyright. 100% legal for them to do that, but mind-numbingly foolish.
- In terms of lyric issues, I simply removed the lyrics from the songs on the site, which made them 100% legal but 99% less useful. Instead of seeing which chords to play as the song went on, you’d just see “This song is mostly D – G -Em – C.
Because the record labels were scared of MP3s and Napster, they just went around trying to stop everything, even if it was to their detriment.
Around that time, another interesting thing happened — concert venues disallowed cameras. I would often take photos at shows and share them on the site (thus sharing this artist with thousands of new users), but they decided that was a bad thing. Again, no good reason why, but just a decision that it must be stopped.
Of course, that ban ended a few years later when literally everyone was walking around with a camera in their pocket.
AI is feeling the same
While AI is a very different situation in a lot of ways, reactions are quite similar.
People are scared of what it might mean.
People are scared for their jobs.
Schools are banning it.
Like the rise of MP3s, AI can’t be stopped. It’s coming, so get educated and learn how to use it for good. Record labels freaked out over MP3s but did literally nothing to try to harness the power of them. They got lucky that Apple bailed them out with iTunes, but your industry might not be so lucky.
Are you worried that your job might be taken by AI? Do better.
Not “do better at your current job”, because you can’t outrun AI forever. Instead, “do better at what your job will become” by harnessing AI to multiply your skills and output in a way that can’t be replaced.
If you’re not sure how to “do better”, I recently heard a great tip — replace Google with ChatGPT for a week. All of the things you might ask Google, ask ChatGPT instead. Some answers will be better, some will be worse, but you’ll learn a lot along the way and have a much better idea of how these new tools can benefit you.