DJs and producers are mixing different songs together into new works of art called mashups, blends or cutups. But what does this mean for the record industry and the idea of intellectual property rights?
The history of innovation clearly proves that new technologies can have very disruptive effects on social and economic systems. Just think about how the advent of aviation changed the world into a truly global arena — now for most of us.
Information technology is revolutionizing the way we think about music creation and distribution. The music industry is always ten steps behind the development, and seems totally incapable of understanding that the old world based on record sales and radio play only is gone for good.
Apple’s Steve Jobs forced them to accept online music downloads as the business model of the future, but this is only the beginning.
Many artists are now bypassing the record companies altogether, producing and distributing their music themselves. Many of them realize that the real money lies in concerts, given all the illegal downloading, and is giving away much of their music for free.
I have recently been studying a new trend that have reached the Web, that can be equally disrupting, namely music mashups.
Disk jockeys have for a long time remixed tracks in the discos and clubs, slightly altering the pitch and tempo to make one song glide seamlessly into the other etc. No record company has found this to be an infringement of their copyright.
Nor did they, as far as I know, protest when some DJs started to merge song, normally putting the vocal track of one song over the instrumentation and rhythm track of another.
However, they did wake up, when some of them recorded these “bastard pop” tracks and put them up online or on bootleg albums. And a large number of record company representatives are now hunting them down online, arguing (probably correctly) that this is a copyright infringement.
The fact is, however, that given the nature of the Web, it has proved impossible to stop these mixes for resurfacing. As soon as one source disappears, another one pops up.