Unauthorized Remixes

I wanted to talk a little bit about unauthorized bootlegging, sampling and mash-ups. I think many people are holding themselves back from a lot of fun as well as a great promotional tool because of legal paranoia. Unless you are a fairly well established artist selling at least over 5000 copies of their albums or songs, it’s safe to say that you are going to be in the clear with legal entanglements.

Keep this in mind:
You would have to be pretty successful before anyone would want to hire lawyers to extract money form you. In most cases, they either would send you a cease and desist order, or would want a pie of the profits.

Think of Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby. That song had an obvious sample of David Bowie/Queen – Under Pressure. First off, that song was successful on the radio before anyone took notice, and once they did take notice, they just asked for a percentage of the profits. Vanilla Ice still made his millions, so it ended up being a win-win.

On the flip side is the ever famous legal issues with The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony which sampled a small orchestral version or a Rolling Stones song. The Verve ended up losing all the rights to their most famous song which went on to make multi-millions. Although that is unfortunate, I see it as money they didn’t have anyway. They didn’t neccesarily lose money, they just didn’t make all the potential money. On top of that, they did go on to make millions from touring and I’m sure that one song is a big reason for attendance.

I guess it’s all how you look at it…

Here are my top 10 reasons to do a bootleg or remix:

  1. You associate your lesser known name with a much better known name. This means that people searching for the more popular artist has a much better chance of becoming familiar with your name.
  2. It’s a great way to get the attention of the artist you are remixing. Information travels fast and if you make a great mix and put it into the hands of some influential DJ’s it’s quite likely to get you positive attention.
  3. People may want to hire you for your remixing skills after coming across your bootleg.
  4. Many many artists have started their music carreer from a simple bootleg that got popular.
  5. Having your own re-edits, remixes and bootlegs will definitely personalize your DJ sets. Playing bootlegs live is completely legal.
  6. People are much more likely to listen to a remix of a familiar song if they haven’t heard of you. This can lead to them becoming a fan of your original music as well.
  7. When you are in a creative lull, a bootleg can often kick your creativity back into gear.
  8. Remixing a favorite song can fun, inspiring and improve your production skills.
  9. Performing a Bootleg, mashup or remix is generally easier to do than creating a song from scratch. you already have hook and high quality sounds to start with.
  10. Who knows, your remix may actually end up getting an official release which can be great promotion and money in your pocket.

My experience in bootlegging has been quite good. My production partner (Frank Prosnik) and I who produce under the name Innerstate remixed a Sigur Ros song(You can listen at www.myspace.com/djjasontimothy). It not only went on to be played by some of the worlds largest dj’s (John Digweed, James holden, Way out West, D:fuse, Taylor, Hernan Cattaneo etc..) , but also got respect from the band themselves. Since we never sold this song, it was never a legal issue and it helped expose our name and other productions to the public.

Many many artists have made their careers from unauthorized remixes or from unauthorized sampling. Think of Chemical Brothers - Exit Planet Dust, or Beastie Boys – Licensed to I’ll, or Pauls Boutique. These relied heavily on samples. Certainly sampling laws have gotten stricter and it is definitely a good idea to get the rights to use any samples if you are planning on selling more than a few thousand copies. Many of the artists that get clearance on all their samples now made their name from sampling without permission. Fatboy slim would be a great example of this. Also think of Danger Mouse and his “Grey” album which mixed the Beatles “White” album with Jay-Z’s “Black” album. This bootleg made him quite a name and got him a lot of respect as a producer in the industry.

In my opinion if you are inspired to do a remix, re-edit or a mashup, just go for it. It’s much easier to promote yourself with a song or artist that is recognizable. In dance music, it doesn’t pay to be paranoid or legal issues. everyone is sampling from eachother anyway, so chances are high that what you are sampling or borrowing was already borrowed from another source.
If it inspires you musically, i’d say it’s worth doing.

Would love to hear your feedback,

Happy music making,

Jason

 



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Happy music making!
Jason

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