Posts Tagged ‘Music Industry’

Kwende Kefentse
by Kwende Kefentse
Wed Jul 15th 2009 at 12:39pm UTC

Innovation from the King

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

As a kid born in the early 80s, a young black man, and DJ, when I heard that Michael Jackson died I was floored. It’s really hard to put into words what his run in 80s meant to me and other kids like me. As a DJ, Michael was the ultimate back door, a key that would fit every locked dance floor, to be reached for only in emergencies and handled with great care. As a dancer, when Fred Astaire calls you his heir, there’s not much left to say. What he did with his feet seemed impossible. Sometimes it was.

Never more mystifying was his impossible lean from the Smooth Criminal video (@ approx. 7:15). At first I thought that it was camera tricks, but then I heard that he did it live at shows – no wires, no cables. Just lean. How does a man defy gravity like that live on stage? In the posthumous craze, one of the more interesting bits of information that shook loose was the innovation that made that possible:

Michael invented and patented a special shoe and rig. Google Patent Search provides the details.

Richard has often talked about his interest in music as a “fruit-fly” industry. That is to say that the the study of the music industry is analogous to the scientific study of fruit flies to better understand more complex biological systems. Through studying music we can understand how innovations flow through other creative industries. Musical creatives don’t just innovate musically, but they’re often linked to technological innovation. This is true about individual innovations, from Jimi Hendrix to Grand Master Flash, as well as system wide innovations, as was evidenced by the MP3 revolution. This is just another example of the same from arguably the greatest of all time.

R.I.P. Mike.

Alex Tapscott
by Alex Tapscott
Tue Dec 23rd 2008 at 10:23am UTC

N-Gen Music: Mash-up Mania

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Warning: If you’re over 30, please proceed with caution. I mean it. This may upset you.  I just caught wind of a 28-year-old musician who goes by the name of ‘Girl Talk’ who is ‘sampling’ The Band, The ‘Stones, R.E.M, AC/DC, and Aretha Franklin, and mixing their iconic sounds with the likes of 50 Cent, T-Payne, Gwen Stefani, and Bubba Sparxx (who!?)

Listen here.

Because he (Girl Talk is a he) started his own ‘independent label’ he thinks he can basically do whatever he wants! No royalties, no fees. And his album is basically free! His website says, “Pay whatever you want.” And he encourages YOU, the listener, to use and sample his music. This internet-driven model threatens to bury the whole record industry!

Here’s another way to look at Girl Talk: as an artist and as an MC, but not in the traditional sense of the word. He has no records, no turn-tables, and no CDs. He has a laptop. That’s it. Girl Talk is commonly described as a mash-up artist: someone who takes the vocals from one song and the instrumentals from another and mixes them together into a new, unique sound. Think The Beatles’ The White Album meets Jay Z’s The Black Album to create Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album. But Girl Talk takes the style to a whole new level. 50+ samples in one four-minute song are not uncommon, and he mixes his massive database of music at live shows in real time on a plastic wrapped computer. Because his samples are so short, nothing he does is illegal according to “fair use” copyright law in the U.S.

I believe Girl Talk’s music is a metaphor for my generation. His songs, which sample from Roy Orbison, Queen, Nirvana, and T.I., to name a few, require a very broad musical knowledge to be fully appreciated. N-Geners today listen to a lot of music and can give a wink and a nod to the clever way older songs are used. Even if they don’t know those songs, odds are many kids will go online and discover them afterward.  OK, kids listening to and/or learning the greatest rock/pop songs of all time. That’s a good thing.

On the other hand, his music can be construed as the ultimate symbol of our short attention spans and our obsession with short, easy-to-digest sights and sounds (think Sneezing Panda on YouTube). One could argue that digital technology has left us incapable of focusing on a good song for more than a few minutes (so let’s jam 50 samples into one track instead!), and Girl Talk is my generation’s answer. OK, that’s a Bad thing.

Girl Talk understands his target audience. He knows his music will be widely disseminated online, for free, before he has the opportunity to release a CD. So he embraces an open, online platform for his music where payment is optional:

“I think what we went for seems like an obvious game plan now, just because as soon as it hits the internet, anyone…can get it for free if they want to. So why not tap in and let them actually take a step back and think about it, and maybe offer some money?”

Get the whole interview with Pitchfork Media Here.

In this open and collaborative model, more money goes directly to the artist (and not a major label), he fosters good will with his fan base, more people get to hear his sound, and as a result he attracts a wider audience to live shows. I think this is a good thing.

This last question depends on your perspective. Some of his mash-ups take important songs out of context and use them only as a means to an end. How would you feel if he mixed Sam Cooke’s powerful and spiritual ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ with the vacuous and asinine ‘My Humps’ by the Black Eyed Peas just to get a ‘cool’ sound? In this regard, his music can be construed as not respecting the wholeness and message of his songs. I’m not a music critic, so I’ll stop there before I start sounding foolish, but I encourage you to share your thoughts.