Mash-ups sample from samplers:
- “Rock the Party” is an incredibly generic title, but the song is anything but conventional. Its vocals are lifted from “Let’s Get This Party Started,” Pink’s catchy and forgettable hit du jour. Behind them, though, is the rattling beat of “Rock the Casbah,” released two decades ago by the Clash.
Not an imitation of the beat. The beat itself. A person or consortium called Ultra396 has spliced vocals from one track onto the music and chorus of another, and has done this so smoothly that it sounds like they were always on the same record.
While politicians debate the propriety of biological engineering, a similar sort of tampering is exploding in a network of underground laboratories. The results, alternately dubbed “bootlegs” and “mash-ups,” crossbreed songs, not genes; they are remixed at home by amateur producer/collagists and released to the world via the Internet. Technically, they are illegal. Practically, they are unstoppable.
….The Belgian duo 2manydjs, a.k.a. Soulwax, spent nearly three years trying to clear the rights to all the records it intended to use on a mash-ups album. Along the way, it discovered that “a certain very well known hip-hop trio from New York, for instance, who once encountered some copyright-lawsuits of their own, will never, ever license one of their tracks for any compilation.”
The trio in question — the Beastie Boys — was not the only act to deny the remixers a right it has no qualms demanding for itself. So did Beck, the Chemical Brothers, and the Notorious B.I.G., among other heavy samplers. Beck partially redeems himself, if industry rumors are true, by having helped convince his label not to sue RTMark for its Deconstructing Beck CD, which consists entirely of radically reassembled Beck tracks. Still, a ladder-pulling strategy appears to be at work.
Maybe that’s hypocritical, and maybe it’s just a part of the aging process — as a once-controversial practice becomes accepted, a new group of upstarts comes along. If that’s the case, there’s little reason to expect it to stop now. In 20 years, Ultra396’s heirs might be suing someone for appropriating “Rock the Party” without their permission. “Bah,” they’ll complain. “Doesn’t anyone respect the rights of authors anymore?” [Jesse Walker, Reason]
Madonna’s obscene file spoof has been remixed with a vengeance in the latest round of mass mashing. Creators should be paid, but I don’t believe they should be allowed to prohibit the sampling of their music once it has been released.