Copyright in electronic dance music
// Posted by Sarah on 03/09/2014 (4:29 PM)
Throughout our discussion on Tuesday about copyright I couldn’t help but think about how copyright affects electronic dance music artists today. Like Girl Talk, most EDM artists have used samples and pre-recorded sounds from other artists in their songs. Not only this, but they also play each other’s and other artist’s songs at their shows. This industry filled me with many questions regarding copyright. How do they go about producing a new song? Do they get permission with each track? What about when they play songs at their shows? With EDM becoming a major music industry now, I can’t imagine every artist taking their chances like Girl Talk did by not getting the rights to each song. So, how is copyright affecting this industry?
After searching for different articles, I came to the consensus that the artists will for the most part pay to clear the track they want to use and then in the future a certain percentage for royalties. Artists may also buy a “sample library” which provides them with a collection of sounds and the licenses to these sounds. This is easy for an established artist to cover as expenses however for many up and coming artists in the industry these payments may deter them and they often choose to release tracks without the clearance for those tracks. This is what Girl Talk seemed to do in the video we watched–release songs with different samples and hope nothing would come from it. Scott MacDonald outlines in his article that fair use does not apply very much to cases with sampling and remixing, although it is the only defense for a up and coming producer. A producer could claim that they are not using a sampling for commercial use and that they distorted the sample enough to make it a new sound. As for playing songs at a show, clubs often will have a blanket licensing payment which makes DJs able to play whatever songs they want. This then allows DJs to be more creative with their samples at clubs because they won’t have to worry about copyright.
With electronic dance music on the rise these copyright laws are definitely being violated more and more by new artists who can’t afford to pay to clear a song. Although this is risky we saw how with Girl Talk he was never punished for doing so. The biggest DJ names out there clearly have the funds to pay for copyright for all their hits that come from sampling other’s work, however it leaves little opportunity for new artists trying to make a name for themselves. This genre also creates a fuzzy line with artists remixing each others work everyday and making music that is very similar.
Just recently there was a case between two DJs in which Deadmau5 claimed that Wildstylez sampled the Deadmau5 song ‘Some Chords” in his new track. Using the same chords across the two different genres of each artist, Deadmau5 proved to be correct and the other DJ took down his work. There was a similar case where will.i.am and chris brown collaborated on a song that they ripped from two relatively unknown producers. This is happening more and more in the electronic dance culture due to the nature of the industry. I’m just wondering if anything will be done within the industry to make these gray areas clearer, or licensing easier or cheaper with royalties growing once a song is profitable.