Remix Culture: A Sample of Controversy

Remix culture.

A topic which sparks lively debate within the creative sphere, especially within the music industry.

Having remixed music myself I know how enjoyable and effective it can be in terms of utilising other people’s work and incorporating it into my own creative process.

Unfortunately, I am not able to monetise (make money from) my remixes on Youtube due to copyright laws because I have used aspects of other artists’ work. In some cases, my remixes are even banned from being viewed in various countries by the original distributers of the song and the record labels associated with it.

remix monetize
Due to copyright infringement, this remix is blocked in five countries and cannot be monetised.

This clampdown of unauthorised remixes is the result of a rapid growth in remix culture as the giants of the music industry have realised that there is money to be made in this area.

As a result, artists are now starting to release multiple remixes of their original songs.

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Popular electronic artist Martin Garrix recently released multiple remixes of his track ‘Scared To Be Lonely’.

Similarly, another growing aspect of remix culture within the music industry is sampling.

This controversial method involves taking a sound or a small section from a song and then manipulating that sound so that it can be incorporated into a new track. Sampling has always been popular with hip-hop artists such as Jay Z and Kanye West and is becoming increasingly prominent within mainstream music.

This video by Jay Z’s sound engineer, ‘Young Guru’ is very effective in explaining the methods and complications involved in sampling.

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Both Kanye West and Jay Z use sampling in their work. Credit: Anirudh Koul, photopin.

With remixing and sampling becoming more prominent in the music industry, remix culture is a topic which increasingly splits opinion. Remix culture can have both negative and positive implications on the music industry:

 Negatives

Essentially, remixing involves taking someone else’s original content, or a part of it, and manipulating it which has numerous implications:

1). Issues with intellectual property arise from remix culture. While a remix may sound relatively different from its original track, the original artist has contributed to the creative process which makes the distribution of royalties unclear.

2). Sampled content is often used in new and different contexts which means that the  message of the original work is arguably lost in the process. For example, when Drake sampled ‘Devotion’ by Earth, Wind and Fire (1975), one cannot be sure if Maurice White, the co-writer who died in 2016, would have been happy with his content being used in a different context.

3). By using samples artists might become reliant on past material rather than creating new material themselves.

Positives

Conversely, the other side of the argument suggests that as long as royalties are distributed in a fair manner, then there are many benefits from remix culture within the music industry:

1). Some of the world’s most successful songs commercially have been created with the use of sampling.

2). Remixes can give old songs a new lease of life which can help to boost the profiles of both the original artist and the remixer.

3). Remix culture inspires creativity as it allows artists to bounce ideas off each other and to build upon each other’s work.

In my opinion, remix culture within the music industry is great for the creative sphere as it encourages endless creativity. Despite the uncertainty surrounding royalties, the ability to remix democratises music culture as it gives creatives the freedom to combine various different genres and periods of music, thus pushing the boundaries of music.

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