A tale of artistic freedom, copyright infringement, hypocrisy, and the music business: "Over the past several years, I’ve uploaded 50 tracks to my SoundCloud account -18 of which are hip-hop remixes (five featuring Jay Z). On April 3, 2015, I received the following email from SoundCloud..."
Guest Post by Scott Greer on ScottGreer.com
Side note: I work in marketing. I make remixes in my free time. I’ve never earned (or intend to earn) a dime from anything related to music.
The message continued:
If you’re at all familiar with Jay Z, you know that “99 Problems” was a major single from his critically-acclaimed 2003 release, The Black Album. From that, you probably also know about Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album — a remix compilation that mashed up Jay Z’s original tracks with The Beatles’ classic, The White Album (1968).
How was Danger Mouse able to create this mashup album? Because Jay Z commercially released an a cappella version of The Black Album in 2004.
That’s right. He commercially released a vocals-only version of this hit album. No beats. Just words. The sole purpose of this release was to encourage DJs and producers to remix his original songs from the album.
Direct quotes from the official iTunes purchase page:
Could this be the record that launches a thousand production careers?
Def Jam did a favor to budding producers who are still searching for the unaccompanied vocals by releasing this a cappella version of The Black Album.
Naturally, I tried to dispute the SoundCloud copyright claim by arguing that Jay Z intentionally wanted producers to remix his original songs (which is the only reason any rapper would ever released an a cappella version of his/her album). But surely enough, the dispute was ignored and I received an official strike on my SoundCloud account. Maybe — I told myself — this was just bad luck and my other tracks were safe.
Three days later, I got another email from SoundCloud:
Déjà vu. After that, I knew I had to remove every remix I’ve ever produced to avoid being permanently terminated from SoundCloud.
I find it interesting that four days before my first violation notice, Jay Zannounced his plans for a new music streaming service called Tidal. This star-studded event was portrayed as a revolutionary moment in music history, when in actuality it really didn’t mean anything.
Not to mention the fact that many people seem to hate it.
The timing here is curious. It seems that someone (or an army of people) in Jay Z’s camp is hard at work flagging remixes and making sure Tidal becomes the go-to place to access his music. Another tidbit worth noting: Jay Z’s Reasonable Doubt (his first and most renowned album ever) magically disappeared from Spotify on the day I received that second violation notice.
It’s clear that Jay Z has changed his tune about encouraging people to remix his work. I understand that the music business is a complicated roller coaster that changes every day, but I think we should be able to live in a world where amateur producers can express artistic freedom through remixing songs from their favorite musicians.
If this is how we address copyright infringement, then so be it. I apologize to Def Jam, Jay Z and SoundCloud for the violation.
Now it’s your turn, Jay Z. You and the Tidal team owe an apology to Spotify.
Design infringement? Sure, let’s just call it that.