Will major labels ever figure out the equation of rights management versus free exposure?
We’ve touched on mashups before, but hadn’t realized how deeply they’d been cross-infected with mainstream pop culture, and hadn’t considered the daunting task they bring to record labels operating with a Jurassic attitude toward media distribution and rights management. First of all, let’s look at an example of how not to do a mashup, and then take a look at an example of why issuing takedowns to mashup artists is probably not all that productive. So how not to do a mashup? Fox TV’s Glee “got hip” and jumped on the mashup train by taking the Police song “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and Gary Puckett’s “Young Girl”, and having one of the stars of the show sing them as a mashup. The result was predictably horrifying. The problem? The music was obviously licensed, played by studio session players, and badly dubbed over by the actor. The net result is comparable to watching your friend who majored in drama but ended up being an MBA singing “Halo” at karaoke night. If anyone should get sued in the world of mashups, it’s the producers of Glee. On the other end of the spectrum, we have situations where a label like EMI issues a takedown when the repurposing of their property would probably do them more benefit than harm. The piece just linked to explains why EMI issued a takedown for NirGaga, the Lady Gaga Vs. Nirvana mashup. What’s wrong with that scenario? For me, the mashup made me remember Nirvana, who I hadn’t thought of in ages, and exposed me to Lady Gaga, who I would otherwise not go out of my way to listen to. In either case, it’s doubtful that the free distribution of the mashup would dent EMI’s profits, and in spite of EMI’s takedown, the video and song remain “in the wild”, and fairly easy to find, as evident with the YouTube link above. Another example of reaching a new and unlikely end-user (i.e.: me) is a series of mashups of Girls Aloud, the British reality TV superstar girl band that’s made millions and that I’d bet a million that – like me – you’ve never heard of before. Below are examples of Girls Aloud and a few other mashups (Devo vs Souljaboy, Lady Gaga vs Eurythmics) that – at least to my ears – make the unlistenable fairly listenable. I doubt major media companies will ever get this property management vs exposure equation, and will continue throwing the baby out with the bath water until they’re bankrupt. If you want a quick roundup of some of last year’s best mashups, check out CultureBully’s list, or Best of Bootie 2009.
Girls Aloud’s “Long Hot Summer” and Beastie Boys “Body Movin’” are both arguably fairly weak on their own, but the mashup actually kind of rocks.
I enjoyed Devo’s “Whip It” in its day, but certainly never think of listening to it now. And Soulja Boy’s “Tell`em Crank That” isn’t likely to find its way on to my play list, but mash them up, and you have an altogether new experience. A sort of “gangstas smokin’ hillbilly crank” experience, to be specific.
Somehow Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” rescues Lady Gaga’s “Let’s Dance” from its feeble slapback-echo-driven 1986-ness by mixing it with some over-sequenced 1982-ness.
Reality meets reality: Kelly Clarkson’s “Walk Away” mashed with Girls Aloud’s “Love Machine” has a synergistic effect that works better than either tune on their own.
The one that EMI cease-and-desisted: Lady Gaga Vs. Nirvana (NirGaga)