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“The Remix Manifesto”: The Times they Are A-Changing ©

April 9, 2011

I recently watched a documentary in my Social Media class called “RIP! The Remix Manifesto”, which discusses the power of remix on today’s music and culture. The film also documents the rise of popular remixer Girl Talk, who is currently transforming music with his mashups of iconic pop songs- all of which are heavily copyrighted.

As Lawrence Lessig, one of the more prominent lawyers taking action against copyright laws today, states in the film: “[Remixes] are the literacy of a new generation.”

The film brings up an excellent point that music, since the capitalization of its source as a commodity, has been primarily about corporate gain rather than its experience for a long time. Thus is the fundamental of the copyright law: Music is “intellectual property” which is owned by the recording industry and artist alone, and may only be used by the public for listening purposes.

However, the Internet and expansion of the public domain has begun to shift this hierarchy, with an emergence of “download culture” and “free” as a primary business model (also known as “Freemium.”)

As an avid downloader and fan of remixes myself, I find that this is what the public domain should be- a blend of information, sound and culture with contribution from the quantity of the public- not just certain individuals.

As shown in the film, the record companies and music industry are now facing a massive loss of revenue which they have thus far chosen to handle by placing heavy copyright laws on “intellectual property” and taking legal action against “downloaders” for often petty instances of said action.

However, it must be said that with their apparent inability to innovate in an evolving technology culture, it seems that the recording industries will only run themselves to the ground, just as any other business must learn to constantly innovate themselves to keep success. It remains to be seen, however, as the saying goes: “Time will tell.”

Girl Talk, the emerging remixer who seems to be breaking copyright laws all the way to the bank, takes highly iconic pop songs and makes them relevant to a new generation with clever remixes. He is an artist without a label and his primary instrument is his computer, yet he sells out music festivals and concerts; basically, he is the modern music artist.

Girl Talk  is gathering momentum as one of the first major contributors to the new “sharing culture”, rather than the old way of “What’s mine is mine” yet I won’t jump to the conclusion that he is the future of music, as the film avers in some ways. He is one of the first to say, “This is out there and this inspires me so I’m going to make something of it”, which opens the door for other artists to do the same. The core idea is to give credit where credit is due and let the creativity flow.

To end with a quote from the original rebel to the music industry, Bob Dylan, notes this about change in his iconic song “The Times they Are A-Changin”:

“As the present now will later be past, the order is rapidly fadin’

And the first one now will later be last, for the times they are a-changin’”.

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