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Weblogs, Licence Plates, and Sampling

:: What’s next in writing tools for weblogs? Dave Winer wants your opinion. I’m wondering if something like Textpattern is where things are headed. Then there is the corporate blog movement; anyone heard of SilkBlogs?

:: When I drive, I play word games with licence plates on vehicles in front of me. When it’s a plate with three letters, I try to form words using the letters in the order they appear from L-R. For example, my plate’s letters are WZN, which could be wheezing or waltzing. My previous licence plate was STR, which could be straight, stretch, mustard, magistrate, saturate, etc. Today I saw a plate with CRD, and could though of chord, card, cradle, etc. I also though of The Communards, an 80s UK band. Later while driving, I was switching radio stations (all of the pop music stations in Edmonton suck bobos), and the first song I heard was “Smalltown Boy”, by the Bronski Beat, which later became…The Communards.

Coincidence? Psychic phenomenon? Rift in the space-time continuum?

:: Grey Tuesday happened yesterday. An LA DJ, Danger Mouse, “created” a remix of Jay-Z’s The Black Album and The Beatles’ White Album, and released it on the Internet, calling it The Grey Album. (Jay-Z had released an a cappela version of The Black Album to encourage sampling.)

EMI, claiming copyright of The White Album, is attempting to stop the album’s distribution, having previously sent Mouse a cease and desist order, re: online distribution of the record. The Grey Tuesday web site notes that “Danger Mouses album is one of the most “respectful” and undeniably positive examples of sampling; it honors both the Beatles and Jay-Z.” Jason Kottke suggests that “musical sampling without prior consent of the copyright holder should be legally allowed because it does our society more good than harm.” Hundreds of web sites turned grey on Tuesday in protest.

I can’t buy this argument. I’ve been a musician for 37+ years, and don’t see anything creative or inventive in the “sampling” of another artist’s original work by adding new lyrics or rhythm, then claiming credit (or co-credit) for it as an original work. That opinion notwithstanding, how does not informing a copyright holder that her or his music has been taken by another “artist” and morphed into something else, do harm to society? WTF?

So why am I against this, while not against downloading? Because I believe these are two different issues. If the music industry can get its act together (right, and the sun will go nova this weekend, too) to create a fee-for-service downloading service, I’d be happy to pay to download music, if the fee structure was within reason, and the quality of the product could be guaranteed beforehand. So far, the industry hasn’t responded. And P2P downloading is legal in Canada. With “sampling”, an artist takes an original work, changes it, and we are expected to view this as a new, creative and unique product.

DJ Danger Mouse “honors” The Beatles with this effort? The album cover shows Jay-Z in the centre, with The Beatles standing behind him, as if to suggest collaboration. Still other versions have him sharing space with The Beatles on the Revolver and Yellow Submarine covers. Sacrilege.

Many artists allow sampling of their music, but the process begins with permission to use copyright material, and then negotiations for compensation with the copyright holder(s). Many other artists, The Beatles included, do not allow sampling.

Then again, this is just my opinion, I could be wrong.

4 Responses to “Weblogs, Licence Plates, and Sampling”

  1. kelly Says:

    Great entry Randy.

    By the by, what station did you hear Bronski Beat on? Man, I love them.

  2. randy Says:

    I think it was 92.5 – Randy

  3. Jena Says:

    License plates — when we bought my car a couple years ago, a 2001 Satturn SC-2 in blackberry (aka deep metallic purple), we got new plates as well. The letters are VFV, which can only stand for “Very Fine Vehicle.” 🙂

  4. Garth Danielson Says:

    I am kind of surprized that you are for downloading but I understand the reasons. I have over the years stolen lots of music, as have all my friends. It’s so much easier and nicer since I got a cd burner in my pc. I mostly buy, or borrow to copy, soundtracks from films…that’s where the best music is now a days. I hardly listen to anything new any more, I am so out of touch with the current music scene unless it’s in relation to films.

    My problem with down loading is the people who are doing it. There seems to be this additude that it is their right to download music, not because they hate the capitalist music robber barrons but because they have the technology and as one person said, “it’s what we do.” So, the music industry sues their ass, “it’s what they do.” I am always interested in peoples response to capitalism, hey, it’s about the money. No ones doing this so you can have a free lunch, unless it’s on an expense account, then some other sucker is paying for it.

    If the stealers hadn’t brought it to such a level probably this wouldn’t have happened…court cases, etc, so soon. Wholesale stealin’ gets noticed. I agree that there needs to be some good, cheap source for downloads, but until that happens, and it will, as the industry changes to meet the new dawn. Things always change, and sometimes there are growing pains. There are already two attempts by Apple and Sony ( I think) but 99 cents is more than I’ll pay for music, that I am mostly not interested in.

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