AI Art Controversy: Billy Strings Addresses New Year’s Eve 2024 Merchandise Backlash

Billy Strings Ai New Years Shirt

Off the heels of his three-night New Year’s Eve extravaganza in New Orleans, Louisiana, Strings is having to address the elephant in the room, and no, it’s not the announcement of a new album. Over the three nights, he was selling limited edition t-shirts, koozies, and more, and while Strings was stoked to share the artwork for these designs, fans quickly filled up the post with hate that Strings utilized AI artwork on the designs.

Billy Strings Ai New Years Shirt
Billy Strings Ai New Years Shirt

The Backlash Takes Center Stage

“I’m so sad y’all used AI instead of hiring an artist who makes a living at design and art.”

“You’re an artist, and you’re supporting the theft of assets from artists. Make it make sense.”

“Billy, debunk the AI claims; we can’t take it anymore.”

“Seriously embarrassing. Who’s checking this sh*t? Or do we not care as long as it brings in cash?”

After the comments flooded in and fans mentioned it throughout the three nights in Louisiana, Billy Strings took to social media to address these notions. He jumped on an Instagram video to explain how this all happened in the first place. He goes on to say that while he typically is heavily involved in the merchandise designs, with how hectic things had been prepping for this set of shows, he pulled his hand out of the pot.

The Explanation and Investigation

As they get hundreds of pieces of artwork submitted from fans, he mentions that he’d always wants to utilize fan work, and when this came across his way, he signed off the designs as they fit the theme for the show.

“I mean, I saw these designs come through, and I was kind of just like, ‘Yeah, sure, why not.’ It’s New Year’s Eve, it’s one event… so sure. They looked like cool designs to me, looked like something some other artist would have made. I thought it was really cool that it was a fan’s art. I thought that it was a kind thing to do.”

Once the team agreed they liked the submitted artwork for the event, they signed off on using the fan’s art. Everything seemed fine and dandy until they got down to New Orleans and started getting word of all the hate their team was getting for using “AI” artwork. When Strings took a deep dive into the commentary, he immediately asked his manager if the art was AI. “My manager showed me the correspondence between him and this artist. And this guy was saying that he drew it from a line drawing from a sketch… he was in New Orleans for the shows, but once he was home, he could send us the files to prove it.”

He then says that they are still waiting on this artist to send him the proof that he made the designs himself and then apologizes for the mistake but that they didn’t have any idea that it was AI.

Billy Strings’ Stand on the Issue

“I really don’t know for sure, but it’s looking like it is. I’ve also always said that if 500 people are saying it’s a bluebird, then the bird’s probably f**kin’ blue. I was concerned, you know? So, like I said, I reached out to my manager, and we’ve been trying to get some filed from the dude. From what I can tell, we don’t have what we need yet to prove this isn’t AI.

So, I just want all of you to know that if these t-shirts are AI… then I’m going to have to kick this dude in the pecker, and we were ripped off. I would never sign off on something like that.”

He then says he has been trying to become more hands-on in the creative process and start designing some himself.

While it does suck that Strings and his team are dealing with the backlash of this, I firmly believe that the fact he got on social media to address it shows how much he cares about supporting artists and their livelihoods. Strings wraps up the video by noting that if this artist can prove the designs are not AI, then he is more than happy to readdress the issue after the fact, but until then, he feels like he is fighting an uphill battle and his character is now being called into question. I think an unfortunate reality for artists like Strings that pump out large volumes of merch for each show is they will have to be more cautious using submitted artwork, as AI is taking over. I also didn’t realize the t-shirt fans were that hardcore about where the art comes from.

Like his caption says, starting the year with a case of the “dang ol’ AI blues, man.”

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