The Rise of AI Tools in the Digital Age

I’ve been kicking around the internet for a long time — since at least 2004. The past 12 months have been the most impactful, in terms of technological advancement, that I have seen since the release of the first iPhone (in 2007).

People have been talking about AI since the dawn of computers. It always felt like such a far-off, distant thing. Until one day in early 2023, my friend Wes called me to say that I’ve got to check out ChatGPT, the generative AI chat bot. That phone call changed my life.

By now, most of us have seen AI and at least experimented with it ourselves, so this article isn’t going to be about that. I just want to put things into perspective, and share my thoughts on where this is all headed.

AI Release Dates

The two AI tools that I personally use the most are ChatGPT and Midjourney, the generative AI image bot. Both of these tools have advanced significantly since I first tried them, and I’m well aware of just how quickly this article will become outdated if I tell you what they can do now vs. then.

However, for the sake of the argument. ChatGPT was released 11/30/22. There were no plugins, no internet browsing, no file uploads, no voice, no custom GPTs, and much less complexity in comprehension…

Midjourney was released 7/12/22. I’m not a (very good) graphic designer, but Midjourney’s capabilities are enough to make anybody feel like one. The newest model, V6.0, can handle text generation, which changes the game even more.

And that is just mentioning two of the most popular AI tools and their recent updates. There are new AI tools popping up every week, for all different purposes, making use of complex APIs and communicating with each other for unique projects.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

Naturally, AI is a polarizing topic and one that is discussed all over the internet ad nauseum. However, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to discuss AI in terms of its intersection with my own life, which comes in the music industry, and in the online website building and operating industry.

AI & the Music Industry

The place I’ve seen AI the most in the music industry, aside from hearing a handful of quirky AI-generated Kanye West and Drake songs, has been in the realm of artwork for bands.

As a non-musician, I can’t really speak to the music creation aspect of it, other than having done a piece on LALAL.AI, an AI-powered production tool. That said, the risks of AI in music creation are right in line with what I will discuss in this article, which is the visual element of the music industry.

Something that came up recently and sparked some reflection on my end about using AI, was the controversy surrounding the merchandise that Billy Strings sold at his New Year’s Eve run in New Orleans to ring in 2024.

After sharing the designs on Instagram, many fans commented expressing disappointment that Billy’s team had used AI to generate the artwork. Billy and his team were not aware of the art being AI, and the artist himself has yet to own up to the creative process.

This video features Billy explaining the situation:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Billy Strings (@billystrings)

And this post displays the merchandise in question:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Billy Strings (@billystrings)

AI and the Detriment of Human Collaboration

While this was not AI art created by Billy’s team, but rather an outside artist who may have used AI, this situation made me think deeply about the rising prominence of AI and what it means for this aspect of the music industry.

I am absolutely all for AI tools and I use them every day, I think Midjourney is the coolest thing ever. But seeing this feels like a warning to everybody, especially those of us in the creative fields, about how AI can endanger the element of human collaboration.

One of the most enriching aspects of the music community is the advent of concert posters. Especially when a group works with an outside visual artist to create something, the poster contributes to the spirit of the event, both in visual form and by involving another artist in the process.

With the technology rising such that artwork can be made internally by business types, or people claiming to be artists, for cheaper prices, the potential for the loss of the human spirit from this aspect of art is possible.

It also seems that there is not much that can be done to stop it, as the technology continues to advance and we are left with the conclusion at the core of this post: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.


What I mean is, if you’re a digital artist who creates content for a living, and you’re worried about AI taking your job, you better start using AI, if you aren’t already. Keyword: Content.

Why, you ask? Because if you don’t, you will be technologically surpassed by non-artistic types who think they can do a fine job on their own. You, as an experienced visual artist, have a massive advantage over the average Joe using Midjourney in that you already have a knack for envisioning and creating artwork.

So, you can use Midjourney or something similar as a starting point, or as a way to generate specific details that will save you time and allow you to truly elevate your game, without making AI the core focus of the piece.

Ultimately, the work of a genuine visual artist who happens to use AI as one tool in their arsenal will have an advantage over the newcomer who thinks they can call themselves a serious artist by typing things into a computer program.

Using Midjourney alone to create something and calling it “art” is a stretch by any definition. It may look like art, and some people may call it art, but at its core, art is defined by the human expression that goes into it. It’s hard to call something made purely by AI a genuine work of art in any medium, no matter how creative your prompt may have been. In my opinion.

The Value of Handmade Artwork

As Billy Strings mentioned, he is looking to dive into more handmade work as a way of representing his concerts. This means that as a visual artist, going into a handmade medium, such as drawing or painting, appears to have more value than ever.

While it may take more of your time, the emotion that gets put into a piece of handmade art shines through in the final piece in a way that no computer-made artwork could ever hope to. Simply because computers don’t have a soul, and we do. That will always be the main strength of humanity as this AI stuff becomes more powerful. We’ve got heart.

The Responsibility of Influential Figures

Now, even if you as a visual artist are using AI to elevate your game, which you absolutely should be at least experimenting with, considering that is where the future is heading.

As Billy says, he is going to start looking for hand-drawn artwork to feature, which is a huge showing of value for his fans. Specifically seeking that out speaks wildly to how much he values human connection through music.

I’m just glad that Billy is not just letting his managers make AI artwork for the band. I could care less if that actual artist he hires uses AI, as long as the AI is used as a piece enhancer rather than the entire work. If he wants to focus on handmade art, that is another step to show how serious he is about this.

However, not everybody is Billy Strings. Billy can look for his handmade art, or digital artists that don’t (make it obvious that they) use AI, but as someone operating in the DIY world, your posters serve a much different purpose than those of Billy Strings.

In the DIY World

Sometimes, you don’t have time to draw a handmade poster for a show where you’d be lucky to have 50 people show up. Also, there’s a very strong possibility that even if you made the coolest handmade art in the world, the poster itself will be forgotten very quickly after the show.

In that case, why would you not use AI to help you? As a DIY band, why would you not use AI to help you make your own poster, if you could? It can be argued that using tools to do something that you normally could not do has artistic value in itself.

That’s why, as a visual artist trying to earn the business of said DIY band, who is using AI to make art for their shows, you have to compete. You’re not getting paid more than a couple hundred bucks, and everyone around you is using AI. This isn’t 1970. This band isn’t the Grateful Dead. Hell, it’s not even Billy Strings.

Do you spend 10 hours drawing something by hand, or do you use AI to make some art to get you started and make it look cooler, in much less time?

You have the skills, you’re already on a level above the average non-artist person. You can use AI in your own unique way, using your actual visual art skills, and edit it afterwards to create something that no non-artist could ever dream to make using AI alone.

So, my point stands. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Using AI tastefully can make you a more versatile creator in many ways.

AI & Publishing

The other side of my life is owning and operating websites, specifically WordPress blogs. One of the biggest developments with the rise of AI in 2023 was the sudden influx of a million other websites boasting AI generated content that dilutes the search engines.

Most of it is low-effort, AI generated mass-produced crap. The kicker? The AI spam still ranks, stealing earnings from legitimate websites with leadership that truly cares about the readers and meticulously spent years crafting content for that audience. If you can’t tell, I’m talking about myself at Extra Chill and many other publishers who experienced this same challenge in 2023.

So, as a writer and as a website owner you become presented with a crossroads. Keep in mind that you NEED TO EAT.

Your options become:

A. Keep grinding out hand-written articles while your competitors mass produce content that will sit alongside yours or above yours on Google anyway … or…

B. Make your own AI content to compete with everybody else who is using AI content, but make yours better than theirs by using your knowledge and expertise about creating content.

The other option, C, which was relevant in the past but no longer makes sense, was to hire non-native English speakers to mass-produce content for you. That’s just a waste of money when you have ChatGPT, who can speak English perfectly fine.

What seems like the smart choice to you? To me, it’s obvious. There is no option other than to use AI tools to help you create content if you want to run a competitive business in today’s internet landscape. It is simply an uphill battle, and you need an engine.

Not to mention the massive benefits that ChatGPT brings when you pop open the hood and work on your website’s code. To me that has been even more valuable than the written aspect, but that is outside the scope of this article.

The Downsides to All This

If it sounds like I have a cynical viewpoint, that’s because I do. I am a fan of AI tools for the advancement to my own personal tool kit as a creator, but I am wary of where all this is heading. If you can simply use AI to do anything you might need to do, what becomes the purpose of human interaction?

This is the main reason why I created this blog. I wanted a space to explore my own thoughts in a public place without having to worry about whether or not is is relevant to my audience, or whether or not it can make money.

AI is a tool of capitalism, a system that we find ourselves engaged with as Americans. Of course I want to make money. That’s why I’m using the AI tools. Because if I don’t I’ll just be left in the dust.

That said, when it comes to content, not all of it needs to be a form of deep artistic expression. Sometimes it’s just content, or “art-lite.” And in that case, if you create content and you’re not using AI tools, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

Ethical Considerations

There is also the question of legality and ethics, and whether these AI bots are plagiarizing others by doing what they do, and how original AI generated anything could possibly be considering it all comes from aggregated source material. There is a whole entire book that could and probably has been written on this topic already.

I think it’s difficult to call what they’re doing plagiarism, although some of the data behind them may have been. The actual software doesn’t plagiarize, assuming the source material was compiled in legitimate ways, because the bots seem to blend a mush-mash of things together.

But if it is just blending together source material, could you ever call it original? And does that make it plagiarism in itself?

One huge example of this has been the New York Times recently suing OpenAI and Microsoft for plagiarism. This isn’t the only example, but it’s enough to strike some thoughts.

There is a giant gray area when it comes to AI in terms of how okay it is that it’s part of our world. There’s certainly an uneasy feeling that comes along with it, and science fiction has already had our imaginations swirling for decades. But I’m not here to argue one way or another. I’m simply acknowledging that I don’t have the answers to these important questions, and it’s something to watch out for.


A new age is upon us, and as creators we must adapt in order to compete and survive in this world. There is a continued value in handmade artwork for the element of human connection and emotional release, but in order to stay competitive from a business perspective, it is difficult to imagine a path forward without the use of AI.

It is fascinating how quickly AI became a prominent part of our world. With this much advancement coming in its inaugural year alone, the future is looking to be a very different place than the world we currently inhabit.

We’re all along for the ride.