04 June 2007

Remixing each other

The musical talent pool now has technology in their own little studios, which only a few years ago were only accessible to artists who had good financing (by record companies or other sources).

That means many more people are learning how to record, produce, remix, etc. with rather little money spent. This in turn spawned the evolution of a high end amateur producer scene, blurring the boundary between amateur and professional. Similar events have disrupted and shaped other areas including computer software, photography, astronomy to just name a few.

And it means the arrival of large numbers of producers on the music scene. Once you have a moderately decent home studio you can become a producer. Producers who aren't always performers. Or great performers who love producing. These producers can make remarkable music. Some are arriving from a DJ angle, some more from a performer angle.

Remixing is essentially a form of producing. Originally remixing was an afterthought - a second production, a remake with at least some of the tracks of the original production.

But I think remixing can be more than just an afterthought - it can be a refreshingly different model of creating recorded music.

Remixing is a form of sequential collaboration, allowing more people to make something into a better overall product, without having to be at the same place simultaneously and without having to agree all the time. Remixing avoids band internal fights. Remixing allows simultaneous parallel versions. Remixing makes the whole participating community better.

Some of the big acts these days are produced technically in a remixing way. But it's still very much a controlled process with a lot of licensing control and issues. But what if we would give up control and make remixing much more open? What if we didn't predetermine, who was going to produce what and when? What if we started recording song sketches and then let the remixers at it? Songs could become many different things simultaneously. Some of them will suck - just like much of the stuff we get fed by former MMC members, TV contest winners and corporate rock bands. And some of the remixes will be amazing, something we would have never thought of, special pieces of music. Maybe we could call that "extreme mixing". The opening up of the production process to wide participation.

What's wrong with remixing? Only one thing: It's not easy to craft a somewhat fair, yet efficient economic model around it.

So remixing has tremendous artistic value potential, but we don't know (yet) how to handle the economics of it.

I submit: Let's NOT have the economics stop us from pursuing a good thing.

So I encourage everyone: write and record songs, make remix packs for others, and remix others. Writing songs and making remix packs is hard, but it puts you into the most valuable part of value chain! So there's an upside for the extra work.

If you want to reserve the right to make money later, you can protect potential future economic interests by licensing under creative commons non-commercial, attribution, share-alike type of licenses. Or even allow commercial exploitation -- if your work gets a great reputation, money has a chance of following in a variety of ways.

In the software business this has become quite common with open source licenses. And many people and companies who are opening their stuff up have still found ways of generating revenue. Not everyone, but many. There will always be people who do stuff for a living and others who do it without making money at it. So that doesn't change. But whether you want to make money with it, or not, at least try something new! In software, one of the key successes was that open source licensing allowed people to build upon each other's work or to take a piece of work into a new direction. That created a body of excellence previously unknown. The Internet became what it is, in large part, because of open source software. Will remixing do the same thing for music? I think it can!

Of course, if you are already have a major label deal, abandoning your currently successful business models is a scary thing to do. And maybe it's not the right thing for your individual situation. However for most of us, what do we have to loose?

Therefore I say, let's remix each other and see what we can do. Build on each other's work and make something brilliant!

2 comments - add your comment:

fourstones said...

very thoughtful and well said.

although some could argue the economic and licensing issues are further along then the impression of this post.

there's jamglue, splice and of course the site I admin ccMixter.


spinmeister said...

Thanks for your kind words, VS!

If music was photography, jamglue and splice strike me more as sites for people with cameraphones, while ccMixter is more of a site for people with digital SLR's :-)

That's why ccMixter is one of of this blog's favorites!