We live in times of war. Laws and regulations are breached every day. Every day we steal or pay close to nothing for intellectual property. For most of us it is as normal as taking the bus to work and we don’t only use it for leisure, we also recycle it for both personal and commercial purposes. But with all the proof of how music has evolved thanks to ripping, remixing, sampling and mashup(ing), why would we not encourage unlimited access to everything cultural? We get stuck in a paradox addressing two issues: recognition to the original author and the availability to content for cultural evolution. The latter I will examine in another blog post but here are some thoughts on recognition.
As being said in the brilliant Everything is a remix -video series by Kirby Ferguson, behind every creative idea there is time and effort put in by an inventor or creator. But as he also underlines, it’s often the refined products that sell the best. One pretty well known example is the Daft Punk beat in their “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”, which has in itself been remixed numerous times, but originates from Edwin Birdsongs track from 1979. But most music consumers never get to discover these connections and in a lot of cases no economic compensation is being given. The mashup artist Girl Talk uses a long list of samples from well known tracks and has based his entire career on creative appropriation of these and although being sued for everything he’s worth, he has not yet compensated the concerned artists with a single penny (Lessig 2008). His latest album is ridiculously good, and available for free download on his website, accompanied with a full list of all the songs he has used.
And here is the interesting part. I believe there is more to this than just paying your respects. Maybe if we had access to a easy-to-use tool for tracking the sampling history of a track, we would go exploring the roots a bit more? There is a website called WhoSampled which allows you to track down the origins of a number of contemporary beats. The content on the site is user-generated and grows with its users, but it only relates to the free, YouTube versions of the tracks. If this tool was to be implemented into our payed-for streaming services, such as Spotify, iTunes or Rara.com, so that we could easily access the roots of the songs we like, and generate streaming revenue to the original artists, this could be a way to hail original content.
There is evidence that people are actually willing to pay for their culture consumption instead of downloading, if the service is giving them otherwise unavailable possibilities. How much they are willing to pay I don’t want to speculate on, but I believe from my own experience, that many people would be willing to pay a reasonable amount to get access to a ‘satisfying’ library of content. Spotify, Netflix and Pandora are evidences of this.
Many small streams…