Record label dedicates its efforts to creativity

Sam Thomas

As a media literate generation emerges, there are disputes as to whether remixes and music should emerge along with it. Some would say that the creative process is, in fact, more important than the product, because the consumers can become a part of it — thus creating the war in the music industry: the war of ideas.

Illegal Art is a sampling label that is based on the idea of the Creative Commons mission — to maximize digital creativity, sharing, and innovation while allowing individuals and companies to maintain their copyright while permitting some uses of their work. “Sampling music within music creation should be a non-issue as far as the legal system is concerned,” said Illegal Art employee Bertrand Harrison, “U.S. copyright laws are, for lack of a better word, ridiculous in how extreme they are. We fully support the CC mission.”

Illegal Art is one of few labels with the business model of a “pay what you want” method to promote their artists. “We have fully embraced the current culture of downloading, file sharing, etc,” said Harrison, “If people do not want to pay for mp3s, they aren’t going to. So we give people the option of downloading mp3s from our catalogue for free, or donating something if they’d like. This model works for us. We think it is fair.”

Artists on Illegal Art include Girl Talk, Steinski, Okapi, Junk Culture, and many more. The mash-up movement that these artists are involved in has been criticized for its lack of originality, because the main focus of mash-ups is to create something new out of old songs. “Nothing is original,” said Harrison, “Everything builds on what came before. Artists like Girl Talk make this very blatant and obvious, but what Gregg does is in no way different from what teenagers in punk bands are doing every time they play a power chord on their electric guitars. All creation is appropriation.”

Also with the criticism of unoriginality comes the controversy of how smaller musicians are to make a decent living with the illegal downloading of music. “Live Nation, Ticketmaster, and all other corporations like them, are unnecessary leeches who contribute to turning what could be beautiful and inspiring creation into little more than a pyramid scheme run by fascist corporations,” said Harrison.

One of the major disputes to music piracy copyright laws is that modern society cannot yet see the impact that remixing and re-creating is having on our culture. “There is definitely a sea change taking place within on creative worlds and society as a whole,” said Harrison, “Then again, change is always occurring, we’re just not paying attention to it.”

The Recording Industry Association of America controls record labels and distributors and through these seeks the power to regulate the flow of music the the public by protecting what they would call “intellectual property” rights. The RIAA has filed high profile lawsuits against providers that allow file-sharing. “I see digital ‘ piracy’ as, not movement toward a new power structure, but rather a movement toward taking power away from people who unjustly wield it — a dismantling of an unjust power structure in favor of more genuinely democratic creation and consumption,” said Harrison.

Legal issues set aside, Illegal Art as well as artists like Girl Talk continue doing what is genuinely viewed as art to them. “I would like to live in a society where no one is coerced into wage-slavery, where all of our livings are decent no matter what we are inspired to do,” said Harrison, “Is this possible within our current system? Absolutely not.”

Though some view the mash-up movement and remixing to be untrue to the creative process, there are those who dispute that there should not be a barrier on creativity. “I’m not sure anyone’s music ‘need[s]’ to be heard. But people who hear Girl Talk’s work usually have a great time listening to it,” said Harrison, “Having a good time, as long as one is not creating suffering in the process, is reason enough to do anything.”