With the introduction of ChatGPT and other Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based apps and services, people are being drawn to AI like moths to a flame.
It has long been predicted that AI software would have its moment in the spotlight, and at long last, that time has arrived.
But is AI everything it’s been cracked up to be? Should artists take advantage of it? And most importantly, can it be leveraged to enhance your productivity as an artist?
We caught up with our founder & editor David Andrew Wiebe to answer these questions and more.
Artificial, Artificial Intelligence
“First of all, it’s a little premature to call it AI,” said Wiebe. “it’s more like ‘artificial, artificial intelligence.’ It’s not sentient or self-aware. It can’t make decisions for you. Really what we’re dealing with is article compilers, speech emulators, image combiners, and the like.
Yes, it’s quite amazing what they can do with a tiny bit of input, and you may even come away with some usable content. But when you consider that AI is creating derivate work, that it’s taking from different pieces of work that already exist – not creating brand-new work – the context changes entirely.
Look, I do think the technology will continue to improve. But will it ever get to the point of being able to think for itself? The media likes to exaggerate a lot about how it’s quickly becoming self-aware but we’re still basically talking about pre-programmed responses, so we’re just not there yet.
And even though it has the appearance of having popped up out of nowhere this year, even Google products like Gmail and Google Docs, and others like Grammarly, for that matter Microsoft Word, have all featured similar ‘AI’ functionality for a long time. Who exactly is checking your spelling or grammar, pray tell? The same technology. It’s called code.
We get ChatGPT and suddenly everyone’s out of their mind, but this is an instance where appearances are quite deceiving. It could even end up being a short-lived trend.”
Garbage In, Garbage Out (GIGO)
“In programming, ‘garbage in, garbage out’ (GIGO) is a well-understood concept,” shared Wiebe. “Basically, if you feed gobbledegook into a computer, you’re going to get gobbledegook out of it.
So, this is the first test of whether you’re going to be more productive using AI. Because, again, the quality of what you get depends largely on the input and prompts you provide.
A skilled and experienced copywriter, for example, will have studied effective headlines, researched their audience, looked at relevant industry ads, taken inspiration from parallel industries, and so on. Because they know what good copy looks like, they can create prompts that help them develop sales letters in partnership with AI. And whatever OpenAI products feed to them, they’ll be able to parse and determine what is really going to work and what isn’t, because they’re the expert.
Basically, they’ll be able to edit. They’ll take what is working, edit what isn’t working, and get rid of the rest. Editing is a critical skill for a musician too. But sadly, it seems to be going by the wayside.”
AI Spouts Nonsense
“So, then we come to this issue of editing and fact-checking,” continued Wiebe. “This is the second test of whether you’re going to be productive with AI. It may not be much of a factor with AI image generators, but it applies to any text-based content you have AI create for you.
AI spouts a lot of nonsense. I’ve had it summarize some of my podcasts and blog posts and it keeps talking about SMART goals, which I never talk about in my content. That’s a whole other topic for another time, but even with the best of prompts, AI often doesn’t generate good, factual advice. You’ll often find it trails off in the weeds too.
I had AI generate a press release for me, but it got its facts all garbled. It said I worked with Mariah Carey or something like that. Now, that would be wonderful, but I will openly admit that I haven’t worked with Carey or any major artist, though I have had a few bigger names on my podcast. The bottom line, the press release was completely unusable – a futile waste of time. I don’t think it would have been that much better with better prompts.”
Improving Your Rank in Google?
“So, if you’re thinking in terms of improving fan or customer experience, offering qualified advice, or whatever your other content goals might be… if you don’t make good stuff, it’s GIGO all over again. Give Google garbage, and it will either de-rank you or ensure your article is nowhere near the first-page result. We already have tools to detect AI-written content, so you can bet Google’s algorithm updates will continually deprioritize low-quality fluff.
Don’t get me wrong. Content can still get you traffic. But most of the long-term benefits come from creating well-researched, definitive resources.
So, those trying to rank in Google with content shouldn’t straight copy and paste anything AI apps generate for them. For Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you want to create content that’s helpful. Your content can be experience and observation-based, sure, and it doesn’t all have to be research-backed. But if you’re serving bad advice – which AI is quite indiscriminate in dispensing – you should not expect to get much traffic from your content.
Everyone is blinded by acting fast in favor of crafting masterpieces right now – ironically, the opposite of what stopped perfectionists in the past.”
Practical Applications for Musicians
“AI – or really what we’re currently referring to as ‘AI’ still has its place,” concluded Wiebe. “I use OpenAI’s Playground frequently to generate viral headlines for content, outlines for articles or books, social media posts, and even 30-day content plans. It doesn’t all work, but AI can certainly help with generating ideas you wouldn’t necessarily come up with on your own.
This doesn’t mean I use everything I’m given. Anything I use, I will usually edit. Sometimes I will save stuff for later.
Various AI tools can help artists generate everything from lyrical content to guitar solo ideas. Again, it’s just being mindful of making it your own through editing. Otherwise, it’s kind of like plagiarism of a different kind – plagiarism of the hivemind. Remember, it’s not creating something new, it’s more like taking what exists, putting it in a blender, and grinding it up.
I also love Descript. It’s a godsend for podcasters and content creators more generally. It will generate a transcript for your audio or video content automatically. This is something it does a fair job of. There’s almost always some manual editing work involved, mind you.
It also has an ‘overdub’ feature. Essentially, it will take a sample of your voice and let you type in something that wasn’t originally in the audio and emulate your speech. Again, it does a fair job.
What makes Descript stand out is that you can do just about anything you could think of with your content – editing, media highlights, exporting to various formats like PDF, MP3, or MP4, audiograms, and more.”
Yes, AI has its place, and it can boost your productivity as an artist. But it has its limitations. The quality of what you get is basically proportional to your input. Again, GIGO. If you’re going to use AI at all, you need to be smart in how you use it. And the people who are most knowledgeable in their fields are the ones that will benefit most from it.
It’s a rare person who does this. Because many people, often without even realizing, say one thing and do the other.
Integrity and leadership begins with self. No one is going to master your schedule for you. You’ve got to be the one to keep accountable to doing what you say you’re going to do.
Know yourself as your word, and the following steps will help you make all your artistic ambitions a reality in 2022 and beyond. This is the same method I used to accomplish more in nine months than I have in three years.
1. Create Your Unfolding Plan
No, not a plan. An unfolding plan.
And while some might argue that’s little more than semantics, I have personally experienced and observed the difference an unfolding plan can make. The usual rigmarole of setting New Years Resolutions and hoping and praying they will manifest all on their own is a lost cause. If you’re a proponent of laziness and sloth, this article is not for you, and you would be better served with mainstream spiritual shlock.
The unfolding plan, as you’ve surely inferred already, begins with the end in mind and is unfolded from there.
How to Set Up Your Unfolding Plan
The basic framework is as follows:
Look three months ahead. What will you have accomplished? Envision it in rich detail, including the celebration party that follows, and write it all down as a done deal (e.g., “we have launched a Grammy Award winning album”).
What will you have accomplished in month one (first milestone) to have gotten the outcome defined in the final step? Write that down.
What will you have accomplished in month two (second milestone) to have gotten the outcome defined in the final step? Write that down.
What are the weekly actions that will support you in reaching your milestones and outcome? Create these actions as promises, requests (of others), and conversations to be had.
Create a space to document your accomplishments, update as you go, and review them often. You will be surprised and amazed at what ultimately gets done.
2. Build Your Team
We’re all lone wolves. Only some are willing to admit it.
You will get better results in your endeavors if you allow others to contribute to you and your projects.
Though I’m harping on a point I’ve raised many times already, fundamentally your team can take any form. Not everyone on your team needs to be a paid employee, but ideally, they are personally incentivized.
Once you’ve built your team, hold weekly meetings and ask plenty of questions. Listen to the answers. The ideas you generate together will far surpass anything you can conceivably come up on your own.
Never micromanage. It’s a waste of your time, and it just annoys others when you don’t give them the space and time to fulfill on their promises. Don’t manage people – instead, manage promises and commitments.
And at the risk of sounding trendy, regularly ask “who?” not “how?”
How to Build Your Team
Place a phone call to a prospective team member. Be direct in sharing why you’re calling and what the conversation is going to be about. Share your idea and invite them to contribute. Whether you get a “yes” or “no,” accept the answer graciously. The outcome isn’t as important as the action taken. Keep making calls until you have a team of six.
Always take the time to get into their world and ask what’s important to them. There’s a way to help them get what they want through their participation in your project, and it’s your job to identify how that’s going to work.
3. Move Projects Forward with Urgent Concurrency
I’m an adventurer, looking for answers to the questions of creatives in a variety of niches, fields, and industries. This answer must be credited to author Dan Kennedy, and if you can still get in, a subscription to Magnetic Marketing will stimulate viable actions and enrich your creative endeavors.
“Successful people don’t do one thing, step by step, as we are taught in school,” says Kennedy. “They move multiple projects forward with great urgency.” This discovery was also mentioned in my holiday reflections, and it has been my modus operandi from the moment I heard it.
I run multiple businesses, write daily blog posts, participate in community projects, hold down multiple staff writing and ghostwriting contracts, make music, engage in personal development (I’m currently in a yearlong leadership program), and still have time enough to work out three times per week, keep a social life, and wind down for a couple of hours at the end of each day.
How to Move Projects Forward with Urgency Concurrency
Perfectionism will not serve you well. Learn when something is “good enough” and get used to publishing. The only way to get used to publishing is to publish regularly.
Have a start and end time for every activity in your life. Say, “X project must be done by Y time” and be unreasonable with yourself.
Minimize calls, meetings, and other distractions that might take you away from actioning your plan. Commit to weekly progress with every project.
We often assume complete freedom and crystal clarity in moving forward with next steps in our artistic career when we haven’t done the hard work of reflecting on the year past and identifying where and why we’re constrained.
If this describes you, you will profit from a read of my Start Your Year the Right Way, in which targeted prompts will guide you through exercises to complete years past so you are free and clear to act now in the present.
If you are looking for further guidance on the topic, a perusal of my products and services will serve you. I am always adding new solutions to help creatives just like you, and while I’m not affordable, I am worthwhile. Set yourself up to reach your 2022 objectives with flying colors.
What have you taken on in 2022? What do you intend to accomplish? What structures and systems have you implemented?
2. Successful People Move Multiple Projects Forward with Great Urgency
When I heard these words exit from the mouth of author Dan Kennedy, I felt as though I was being given permission I needed to embrace this behavior.
See, most of us try to do everything step by step, one step at a time, just as school taught us to do. Kennedy contends, though, that successful people categorically don’t exhibit this behavior. They move multiple projects forward with great urgency.
Since your compensation relies on making things, when and where possible, take the same work, and repurpose or repackage it. If any part of you thinks this disingenuous, you should know that bloggers like Darren Rowse have had great success bundling up free content and turning it into product.
A blog post can become a series of blog posts. A series of blog posts can turn into an eBook. An eBook can turn into a series of eBooks. A series of eBooks can become a book, and then a course, and so on.
And it doesn’t just work in linear but also in parallel dimensions. For instance, a blog post could form the foundation of multiple tweets, ad copy, a newsletter, a podcast episode, a video, and more.
What you’re reading now will go on my blog, on Medium, and in a future book, at minimum. When and where possible, look for multiple ways to get compensated for the same work.
5. Don’t Make What You Can Never be Compensated for
I’d heard this before, but this time, it really hit me between the eyes.
I’ve had a few failed launches in my time, especially in the last couple of years. And what I’m seeing now is that a) you need to know your audience, what they will pay for, and how they like to be talked to (direct, indirect, urgent, etc.,) b) even when you have the right product, desperation stinks, and c) sometimes your hard-gotten email list is made up of a bunch of freeloaders.
If you’re creating for fun, that’s a whole other thing. But entrepreneurial endeavors aren’t a walk in the park, and you need to protect your time. If you can’t foresee being paid for it, don’t make it, and if in doubt, take pre-orders to validate its viability.
People like to work with those they perceive as successful, and it doesn’t matter much whether that perception was created or imagined. if you can create it, prospects and customers will be more amenable to throwing bigger sums of money your way.
7. Build Personal Satisfaction into Everything You do
Dan Kennedy says the idea that you need to set up your business around things you don’t want to do is a misnomer. When and where possible, he says, build personal satisfaction into your business, and put it ahead of profit.
Home court advantage is a real thing, and if you can get people to come to you instead of you having to go to them, it automatically puts you in a position of power, and the psychological effect is a client who is more likely to heed your advice and get results from your guidance.
In every area of your career, it’s worth exploring opportunities to create more satisfaction in your work.
8. The Less Flexible Time You Have, the More You Accomplish
Some would argue against scheduling to the hilt, but I resonate more with Dan Kennedy’s methodology of scripting one’s day.
There’s a finite amount of time to do everything, and every activity should have a start and end time. And where most people get stuck is in establishing a proper end time for all their activities. When you schedule activity with an end time in mind, you necessarily put more restrictions on yourself and others. You start to say things like, “it will be done by 2:30 PM, because it needs to be done by 2:30 PM.” And you make it so.
Constraints lead to increased productivity when you treat time blocks as a matter of do or die, life or death.
There’s a longer, harder way of doing everything. You can start a book from scratch. Or you can draw upon content already created. You can make a new course. Or you can update an old course and make it better. You can seek out inspiration. Or you can create everything from scratch.
But just because you spent more time on something, put more effort into it, thought more about it, doesn’t mean it’s going to pay more. Identify the direct path to achievement before blazing a new trail, especially if your income depends on volume.
10. Do Something Daily to Bring Fresh Blood into Your Business
Dan Kennedy says you don’t ever want to rely on one channel to bring in new business, even if it is effective. He says he’d rather have you focus on 10 channels that “sort of” work versus one that’s amazing. What I get from this is that one is the most dangerous number in business, and single-source dependency is setting yourself up for disappointment.
11. You Can’t Make Money Doing Anything Other Than Marketing
You aren’t in the business of making music. You are in the business of marketing. This paradigm shift is a challenging but ultimately rewarding one. Businesses rely on cash, and cash is only generated with marketing.
Specialists tend to command greater income and more respect from their clients. Music careers are challenging enough without inevitable dream stealers and time wasters, and you are better served creating strong positioning in the marketplace, such that people respect you and your advice from first contact (which, by the way, is a commodity if people don’t pay for it).
Feng Shui expert Marie Diamond explains that many successful people reach a point of impasse on the way to the top. They work on their mentality, their spirituality, even their talents and gifts, but they get to a point where there’s no moving forward, and they’re missing just one thing – their environment is not consistent with their commitment.
To create a life harmonious with your goals and dreams, it is necessary to create an environment where you can do your best work. An environment that reminds you of the success you’re creating, not the failures you’ve endured. Everything in your environment affects your subconscious. If you’ve been hitting a wall, it’s time to transform your life by transforming your home or work environment. Eye-opening.
To remain efficient, I have often opted for fast and easy ways of creating content. Set up a couple of spaces for writing, podcasting, and making videos or going live, and share a timely message.
What I learned listening to copywriter Jim Edwards is the importance of keeping things fresh and interesting. There are so many ways to relay a message – rants, lists, reviews, critiques, how-to guides, and more. Not to mention, if you’re making video content, you can vary up your background (filming location), wardrobe, haircut, and more. With every piece of content you create, there are hundreds of variables you can control to drive up engagement.
It’s easy to sacrifice creativity and forethought for efficiency. But is it worth it? If you want to keep things interesting for your audience, keep your content fresh.
At this point, I’m still not exactly sure how many things I would consider a success on any scale, but it’s a dozen things or less to be sure.
And that’s out of the thousands of things I’ve created over the years (including this blog post).
I’m coming to accept that this is par for the course. And it’s okay to try. To experiment. And to fail.
Maybe it’s not so much about the failure lessons after all, even though there can be value in those.
Maybe it’s more about engaging in work that interests and excites you. Getting swept up in the process of doing rather than worrying about outcomes.
I’m going to be embracing the process of experimentation more.
And I hope you do too, because music, creativity, and business can be cruel mistresses that leave your persistence unrewarded. You might even end up giving your all before you realize that a project was doomed from the start, and is doing little more than sucking the life out of you.
There are times to keep going, and times to move on.
The only catch is that learning to play an instrument takes time. And you will likely feel a stronger connection to one instrument or another but won’t know without spending some time experimenting.
If I were to recommend an instrument to learn, it would either be piano or guitar.
🎹 Piano because everything you learn on the instrument can easily be applied to organ, mellotron, synths, keyboards, MIDI controllers (which you will find in practically every studio), and more.
🎸 Guitar because everything you learn on the instrument can help you on bass, ukulele, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki and more.
The best way to learn an instrument is with the help of a knowledgeable teacher, so if you can afford lessons, begin taking them right away.
Secondarily, you can find a lot of great books, articles, and video tutorials online.
If you’re looking to gain confidence on your instrument and develop the inner skills necessary to improve your “feel” on your instrument, Musical U is a great community and training program to take advantage of.
Learn to Sing
Your voice is uniquely yours. So, learning to sing is a great way to learn how to express yourself.
In my early days, I always found it helpful to listen to music and how one lyric flows into another.
Basically, listen to music widely, especially music you enjoy. You’ll learn a lot by osmosis alone.
That’s the main thing to keep in mind with lyrics – flow. Big words, too many words, and hard-to-pronounce words should mostly be avoided.
Rhyming dictionaries can also be helpful, but don’t get caught up in formula. If it’s easy for you to come up with, chances are someone else has already come up with it!
Study the ins and outs of songwriting and most of all, PRACTICE A LOT! When I was just getting started, I filled multiple binders with terrible lyrics (but I had a lot of fun doing it). I even wrote 365 songs in a year at one point.
Know that lyrical content is always in demand, but it does have its limitations. If you’re planning to learn how to write lyrics first, then be sure to find a friend who can play an instrument, so you can put some music to your poetry!
Learn to Write Songs/Compose
Technically, this isn’t a great jumping off point for learning how to start making music.
If you want to write songs or compose, generally you’ll need to know how to play an instrument first. So, more than likely, you’ll start there before graduating to writing your own songs.
It probably has something to do with the fact that I often didn’t achieve what I wanted to achieve or the fact that it took so much effort to set goals that were SMART, SMARTER, or whatever method you subscribe to.
It’s not as though I didn’t achieve anything by setting goals.
Certainly, I was better off for having set goals than not.
But I found I just wasn’t getting what I wanted to get out of it.
I would easily get derailed.
And, my confidence kept plummeting with every missed goal.
I also had mental blocks that prevented me from getting to where I wanted to go.
But goal-setting isn’t bad.
And, it needs to be done.
Let’s Get Clear on What’s NOT Working
Before I get to the solution, let me tell you where you won’t find the solution:
In your own head.
It’s easier than ever to get stuck in your own mind (because of social media, smartphones and so forth), and that’s truly the last place you want to look.
Your brain has gotten you to where you are, and it’s not capable of taking you where you haven’t been.