Wilco Is Showing The Way

Ever since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was rejected by their label at the time, Reprise, Wilco’s been showing the way forward for bands. Most people know the YHF story. They bought the record back from Reprise for $50k, started streaming it on the net, developed a big buzz about the record, were signed to another label (Nonesuch),and the record sold 500,000 copies, and was recognized as one of the best records of 2002. It’s my favorite Wilco record and we have them all.

Since then, Wilco’s put out two excellent studio albums, A Ghost Is Born, and Sky Blue Sky, each exploring new and different sounds, they’ve added the amazing Nels Cline on guitar, and put out one of the best live records in the past 10 years, Kicking Television: Live in Chicago.

On top of all that, they’ve become one of the best live rock shows you can see these days. I’ve seen them a bunch in recent years, including a great show this summer at the Warsaw in Brooklyn. David Hyman and some of the team at Mog went to see Wilco this past weekend at the Greek Theater in Berkeley and they came away similarly impressed. The fact is, if you like live rock music, you’ll enjoy an evening with Wilco, regardless if you are a huge fan like me or not.

So you have this band, operating at the peak of their talents, making great records, touring like crazy, and what do they do? They license a bunch of songs off their new Sky Blue Sky record to Volkswagon. I knew they had licensed the single, Either Way, because I’ve seen that ad. But the other night, as Josh and I watched the Mets give one away (doing that too much these days) to the Dodgers, we saw the whole bunch of the commercials played over the course of the game. I love these songs and I love that they are in VW commercials. It’s just such a great way to marry two strong brands and showcase Wilco’s new songs to a wider audience than they would otherwise reach.

Here’s my favorite, the song is called "The Thanks I Get" and it’s an outtake from the Sky Blue Sky sessions that Wilco’s been playing a lot this summer on tour. You can see all the VW/Wilco commercials on YouTube.

There’s been so much talk about artists having no way to make money with music anymore that its accepted as a given. I recognize its harder than ever to make a living making music. And it’s never been easy. But as I’ve always said on this blog, the artists themselves are going to have more options to make money in the future, not less. Wilco’s been figuring that out for the past five years and doing a pretty good job of it.