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Old 02-22-2005, 08:52 PM   #1
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Why Wilco is the Future of Music - Wired Magazine

(Don't worry, you don't have to like their music to appreciate this.)

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/1...w=wn_tophead_5

On February 13, thousands of musicians from around the world will gather in Los Angeles at the Grammy Awards to celebrate music circa 2005. But the celebration won't hide the war that's going on. Record labels are threatened by technologies that give fans access to music in ways no one ever planned. They plead with Congress for more laws to control the fans. Activist organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge (on whose boards this columnist sits) are fighting back. They (we) demand an end to the war, and the attack on innovation that it represents.

Yet there's something hollow about the earnest rage on both sides of this debate. Hollow, as in inauthentic. It is artists who make music, not the industry that markets it or the technologies that take it. But artists independent of the industry have been as rare in this debate as kids who don't file-share music. Of course, there are the "rebels" - those who have made it in the old system and who call for something new. But they know, as we all know, that they will be fabulously successful, regardless of what they do now. They risk nothing, and thus their message means less.

The band Wilco and its quiet, haunted leader, Jeff Tweedy, is something different. After its Warner label, Reprise, decided that the group's fourth album, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, was no good, Wilco dumped them and released the tracks on the Internet. The label was wrong. The album was extraordinary, and a sold-out 30-city tour followed. This success convinced Nonesuch Records, another Warner label, to buy the rights back - reportedly at three times the original price. The Net thus helped make Wilco the success it has become. But once back in Warner's favor, many wondered: Would Wilco forget the Net?

We've begun to see the answer to this question. Wilco's Net-based experiments continue: the first live MPEG-4 webcast; a documentary about the band in part screened and funded via the Net; bonus songs and live recordings tied to CDs. Its latest album, A Ghost Is Born, was streamed in full across the Net three months before its commercial release. And when songs from it started appearing on file-sharing networks, the band didn't launch a war against its fans. Instead, Wilco fans raised more than $11,000 and donated it to the band's favorite charity. The album has been an extraordinary success - and was nominated for two Grammys.

I got a chance to ask Tweedy about all this before a concert in Oakland, California (that's the weird thing about law professors hanging around Wired - you get to go to the back of the bus). What struck me most was his clarity. He was a man called to a war that he couldn't believe had to be fought. Yet it isn't ideology that drives him. It's common sense.

"Music," he explained, "is different" from other intellectual property. Not Karl Marx different - this isn't latent communism. But neither is it just "a piece of plastic or a loaf of bread." The artist controls just part of the music-making process; the audience adds the rest. Fans' imagination makes it real. Their participation makes it live. "We are just troubadours," Tweedy told me. "The audience is our collaborator. We should be encouraging their collaboration, not treating them like thieves."

He uttered this with the passion of a teacher explaining the most fundamental truths. Words echo in this poet's mind many times before they are spoken. These words had echoed many times before. But when I asked him to explain the extremism in this war, passion faded and disbelief took its place. Commenting on a court decision to ban all music sampling without a license, he said one word: racism. And he seemed genuinely confounded by those who use the courts to punish their fans. "If Metallica still needs money," he almost whispered, "then there's something really, really wrong." He would protest this extremism, he explained, by living a different life. By inviting, by creating, by inspiring music, and by ignoring wars about plastic.

If this war is to end, it needs authentic voices. We have had enough preaching. The outrage is beginning to wear thin. It will take bands like Wilco, who live a different example and whisper an explanation to those who want to hear. Peace takes a practice. One that only artists can make real.
Email Lawrence Lessig at lawrence_lessig@wiredmag.com.
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Old 02-22-2005, 08:56 PM   #2
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Want to know something crazy and insane??? I have almost made myself get 'A Ghost is Born' lately. I'm sick of being such a spoiled sport. I actually do kinda like YHF, but I somehow got myself into a phase where I got so sick of hearing about them that I made myself hate them. That's lame.

Anyways, I've been tempted to get it to see if I'd like it or not.
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Old 02-22-2005, 08:58 PM   #3
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I didn't know what to make of Ghost the first time I heard it. It had to grow on me. Now I love it so much. I'll always be a YHF girl at heart but Ghost has a lot of insanely wonderful moments.
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Old 02-22-2005, 09:03 PM   #4
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Ok, that was a pretty cool article (I hadnt read it when I placed my previous comment)

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Old 02-22-2005, 09:21 PM   #5
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a ghost is born is EASILY my favourite wilco cd. it's just flat out amazing.

"wishful thinking"...man, a song like that just hits everything right.
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Old 02-22-2005, 10:16 PM   #6
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Some days I think it's a tie with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for me--if it weren't for I'm a Wheel and the noise on Less than You Think. But then Hell is Chrome is a perfect song. And there's the achingly gorgeous opening of At Least That's What You Said. The hypnotic drone and middle eastern guitar thing in Spiders followed by the crazy power chords. The tenderness of Muzzle of Bees and the jangly guitars in Company in My Back. The Beatles-esque Hummingbird. I dunno...maybe it's their best.

BUT DID YOU READ THE ARTICLE??
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Old 02-22-2005, 10:25 PM   #7
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http://www.wilcoworld.net/news/index.html

FEB-23 WILCO Live from the 9:30 Club in Washington DC via a QuickTime player that will be available here.

FEB-24 WILCO Live from the 9:30 Club in Washington DC via NPR.
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Old 02-23-2005, 04:47 AM   #8
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Friday in Cleveland
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Old 02-23-2005, 05:24 AM   #9
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Great article, I added it to my blog about a week ago.....
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Old 02-23-2005, 06:18 AM   #10
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Old 02-23-2005, 10:30 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by u2popmofo
Want to know something crazy and insane??? I have almost made myself get 'A Ghost is Born' lately. I'm sick of being such a spoiled sport. I actually do kinda like YHF, but I somehow got myself into a phase where I got so sick of hearing about them that I made myself hate them. That's lame.

Anyways, I've been tempted to get it to see if I'd like it or not.

Give it a chance, you'll dig it. Both of their last two records are so damn great.
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Old 02-23-2005, 10:32 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by Zoomerang96
a ghost is born is EASILY my favourite wilco cd. it's just flat out amazing.

"wishful thinking"...man, a song like that just hits everything right.
Agreed about Wishful Thinking, but Handshake Drugs and At Least That's What You Said have been growing on me hardcore lately.
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Old 02-23-2005, 11:24 AM   #13
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I have Tweedy singing Political Science on my latest podcast, live from the Cincy show I attended....
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Old 02-23-2005, 04:01 PM   #14
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Good article. I really do buy more music because of the Internet, and my tastes have expanded exponentially.
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Old 02-23-2005, 04:35 PM   #15
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elvis my son, is there anyway i could get you to burn me a couple of cds of that concert you went to?

it is good quality, yes?
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