Friday, February 04, 2011

paying it forward: (c) sorts it out, badly

From Generation Bass, one of the places I first came across the great DJ Lowdjo (outta Belgium), comes a great example of how political copyright is, and how it tends to hand over power to those in colonial centers (regardless of intention). It also reveals again how Soundcloud is turning on the communities that gave it its start.

So, two American producers (Gonjasufi and Gaslampkiller) release an album that include lots of songs sampling Turkish psychedelic rock songs. Warp records puts out the album. A Belgian DJ (Lowdjo), independently buys the Turkish albums that G&G did, and makes a mix putting those tracks on it. When uploading the mix to soundcloud, it gets pulled for copyright infringement --of the Americans album A Sufi and a Killer.
It's a mishmash of competing rights, communities, and musical practices, and, not surprisingly, copyright law doesn't help use sort out anything meaningful. Although I would be curious to know how far it reaches - who felt the had to or ought to negotiate with whom. I haven't seen the physical album, I don't know if any of the Turkish artists were credited. Or if they were paid.

Coincidentally, Warp records was the only label, back in 2005, to refuse to allow me to include their track on a mix CD I did for Death$ucker records. They said it would cost a flat 200 pounds and refused to negotiate. That was about what I was paid to make the mix of 41 tracks, of which there were only 500 copies ever sold, at I think 5 pounds each. Anyway, I hope they paid 200 pounds to everyone sampled on that record!

And, where did Gonjasufi and Gaslampkiller got the idea to put a song together made from samples? All kinds of people credit the album for its imaginative use of sampling. The idea of doing that, the creative sensibility that informs that practice, comes from the aesthetic of communities that soundcloud first built itself around, and is now divesting itself of (having profited from our participation).

I found the page where Soundcloud debuted discussion of its change in policy and automatic "enforcement" (expansion) of copyright law.. I encourage discussion there as well as here.


  1. i know it doesnt really fix the issue at hand, but ive been wondering for awhile now why people upload mixtapes to soundcloud. the sister site mixcloud seems preferable to me. although i dont think you can d/l from mixcloud.

  2. First I think we have to take away the current way we value effort, but that's another world entirely.

    Secondly, as an electronic musician, when I loved a gonja Sufi song and found out later that he had basically sampled the whole song he sung over he lost about 90% of my respect. Make your own psychedelic music to sing over dude! Or find a band. Don't be lazy.

    Third: Where does sampling stop? Really.? I wonder.

    Thanks for posting Ripley.

  3. And for anyone who still believes in capitalism should look up holly johnsons case regarding Frankie goes to Hollywood.

  4. Thank you for spreading the message, much love from Brussels!

    The physical album doesn't mention or credit any of the artists, doesn't even have track-titles. I think Erkin Koray (most sampled artist on the album) is still alive, would love to know what he thinks about all this. Maybe someone should give him a call? ;-)

    @cosmic cry: I'm on mixcloud also, problem there is you can only stream music and can only
    upload 100MB at once, what means poor quality for the listener.

    @misterprojectile: A lot of people felt the same way over here when they heard the Las Grecas track "Bella Kali", where it sounds like nothing was changed to the original..

    I love the idea of sampling and getting a whole other generation to listen to music they would maybe never listen to.. a lot of these tracks are 40 years old.
    But I think the least you can do is share the knowledge and credit the original artists, as a basic form of respect.

  5. Big up lowdjo - that's pretty sad about the album not crediting anyone. That had to be a choice. And credit is inherently valuable, and always valuable, unlike copyrights.

    knowledge matters! and copyright law works against knowledge because if you give credit that raises the stakes that you might have to give permission. By showing that you know something about who generated the recording, that makes the law more suspicious.

    Although credit doesn't guarantee ownership, as Clyde Stubblefield told us in "Copyright Criminals" - he never owned the rights to the funky drummer.

    And to his eternal praise... he says that all he wants is the credit anyway, he wants people to know it's him!

    As bad as denying money to people who need it, when you deny their faces, their names and their existence. At least if you are at the level of major distribution and exposure.