In his four-part video series, Kirby Ferguson brings up an interesting topic. Could everything fundamentally ‘creative’ that we know simply be a remix of something else? A copy-and-paste scrapbook of things that have already been done?

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I agree, Lorelai, but I need to talk about this.

Ferguson’s first installment in his series runs onto the topic of music, and how existing baselines, lyrics, chords, or sometimes even sections of certain songs are sampled in others. While this has been seen in specific examples such as Melanie Martinez’s ‘Pity Party’ taking a sample from Leslie Gore’s ‘It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To’ or Halsey’s ‘Hold Me Down’ sampling the instrumental bass line from Son Lux’s ‘Easy’, the example used in the video happened to be the many, many times that Led Zepplin took lyrics, chords, or lyrics from other music and didn’t bother to cite the original creators for songwriting.

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Yeah, me too. Nobody (especially a rock fan) ever likes to hear that a band or artist they enjoy has taken something from another medium. The only issue with this is that we have to accept that creativity derives from experience and from being able to copy and examine things first before we can begin to create in that medium.

The specific examples used in Led Zepplin’s case are one in way too many to name, and I think a lot of people would like to slit the throat of anyone who would dare suggest that the chords from Stairway to Heaven were not an original work of art. Ferguson goes on to explain that while Led Zepplin is certainly not the first blues-y band to sample from other songs, they are one of the only ones who do it without citing those who originally wrote it.

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I’m in English student. Not citing your sources is a crime that could probably get you burned at the stake or stoned if you’re not careful enough. It’s taken quite seriously here, but sadly that doesn’t carry over to the musical world. I don’t believe that they ‘ripped off’ a song, but I do believe that they could do a little better when giving credit to those that they take the lyrics/chords from.

So without further ado: Katie’s Personal Guide to Remixing Without Ripping Off.

  1. You may sample an existing baseline or instrumental to a song as long as you credit the original creator. Taking the bassline or instrumental of a song is incredibly common in the music world and shouldn’t be rioted over. However, this does not mean that you can pass it off as your own.
  2. You may sample a lyric or two from a verse from another song but can’t take the whole verse. However, you should be fine by taking a chorus so long as you do something to change or transform it while giving the original artist credit.
  3. You cannot sample an entire verse. Don’t bother trying to get away with it. Someone will find out. It seems less like a remix and more like a rip-off if you take a large chunk of a lesser known part of a song.
  4. You can perform covers of existing songs, but don’t bother trying to pass the entire thing off as your own.
  5. The final rule. Can you guess what it is?

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Come on Leo, you know this.

CITE. YOUR. SOURCES.

The one sure-fire to get away with remixing a song without being called a rip-off artist is to make sure you tell people where these wonderful lyrics/chords/tunes came from in the first place.

This is Katie, signing off.

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One thought on “The Ethics of Remixing

  1. Really well-written blog! Your personal guide to ‘Remixing Without Ripping Off’ is such a creative idea. I think there needs to be a concrete guide in the music world for all artists to follow so everyone’s original work receives credit throughout the industry. I think your guide would be very similar to what the music industry needs to create! Good Job!

    Like

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