OLTD 505 Week 2
I’ve began this blog post a couple times now, and I keep talking myself in circles, or miss the point of what I was trying to say. Currently, I’m 5 videos into this YouTube remix series based around Girl Talk’s latest album, and I’ve decided I’m going to try a different approach. First of all, this video is amazing! It is pretty much an unbeatable way to procrastinate when you are supposed to be doing OLTD homework. I have it on in the background right now while I type this. It is the exact opposite of my current state: hunched over my computer and searching for inspiration.
Girl Talk, aka Greg Gillis, was the inspiration for Rip: A Remixer’s Manifesto, and also this series of videos. His album “All Day” features over 370 samples rearranged and remixed into this incredibly infectious, sugarcoated blast of pop music. “Rip” makes a case for Greg being not only a great arranger, but also an artist in his own right, and a musician whose instrument just happens to be a computer. What he does is currently illegal, yet as of typing this he spends his time not in a jail cell, but playing to hoards of adoring fans all over the world. It is clear that public attitude’s towards remixing and repurposing media is at odds with those who stand to make a profit from it. What I’m really interested in is how public attitude has been shaped by the restrictive laws that surround most copyrighted material, and what steps are being taken to change this.
For the longest time there has been no middle ground in how we interact with copyrighted material. I think that in the early days of Napster the lawsuits launched by the RIAA did very little to scare the population into following the existing copyright laws, and instead encouraged a culture of distrust toward many big name artists and record labels. I think that many people’s attitudes towards the use of copyrighted materials can be seen as a reactionary measure against these restrictive laws. We live at a time when we can use these works to spark a dialogue, where in the past they have been used as a one-way lecture.
So what has been done to change this relationship between and creators and their potential customers? I think one of the biggest changes has been in the realization of the Internet as a way for creators to market, distribute and advertise their products without a big name backing them. I also think that crowd funding initiatives such as kickstarter, indiegogo and quirky and have proven to be instrumental in allowing people to gain financial support on their own terms. Websites such as bandcamp and vimeo allow you to host, sell, and distribute your work, while controlling the copyright and terms of its use. Suddenly there are many avenues available to create and share content with the world.
I think that in a lot of cases people have pirated music in the past because of convenience. Sites like Netflix are a great example of this. For the price of about one movie ticket a month users are given access to a years worth of content. As Netflix’s Chief Content Officer has said: “I think people do want a great experience and they want access – people are mostly honest. The best way to combat piracy isn’t legislatively or criminally but by giving good options”. I completely agree. As this article by Paul Tassi states, Piracy is a service problem. If distribution models changed, Piracy would drop substantially. If the large movie studios and record companies can create a model in which it is easier to legally obtain their products, many people will make the switch. It seems as though things are already changing, as the music industry has reported that music sales are up this year, and piracy is declining. The reason given in the article? Convenience, with streaming sites such as Spotify and Pandora (which seems to be currently restricted in Canada) being seen as an easier alternative to illegal downloading. Major media companies are still pursuing punitive action against the worst offenders, but this too has shifted from million dollar lawsuits to restrictions enforced by Internet service providers.
As more services are available to pay a fair price for artists work, we will continue to see a decline in piracy, and more support for creators who should be compensated for the work that they do. If current models do not adapt with the times, they will be replaced with models that are more dynamic and fair to both artists and consumers.