Autotune The News Becomes A Billboard Hit

from the who-gets-publishing-rights? dept

Hopefully by now, you've come across the "Autotune the News" phenomenon, where various news clips are turned into sometimes brilliant music numbers thanks to the magic of autotune and some very creative individuals. However, it seems that they're now taking it to the next level. Their incredibly popular "Bed Intruder" song taking the statements of Antoine Dodson on a newscast about his sister getting raped, hasn't just gone "viral," but it's actually hit the Billboard Hot 100 and is selling really well on iTunes:
Apparently some of the proceeds from the song are going to the Dodson family, as well as the makers of Autotune the News -- which perhaps answers some of the questions I had about who gets the songwriting "credit" and copyrights in such situations. I wonder if anyone used in a clip (or a news organization) would ever sue for infringement.

In the meantime, however, it looks like the "Gregory Brothers," the team behind Autotune the News, have figured out plenty of ways to turn their success into something more. They're already working on a pilot for Comedy Central, among other projects...

From a cultural perspective, though, this whole story again shows how culture is changing in very interesting and powerful ways. When we talk about things like "remixing" and "mashups," we tend to hear from a chorus of folks who brush off such things as mere copying and not worthy of being considered art in itself. But there's a lot more to it than that. What makes culture culture is the shared experiences around that work. This song is not only musically interesting, but also calls attention to a horrible incident that happened as well. And, again, some will brush it off as being meaningless, but the power with which it has interested so many people is not something that should be ignored.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:14am

    Who knows about the arts better than lawyers though?

     

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    Joe, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:17am

    i'm reminded of a great conversation I had with a rather brilliant if otherwise screwed up friend years ago. I was discussing astronomy and how a star in it's death cycles goes to extremes, inflating many many times it's size before shrinking down to a tiny percentage of it's former state to live out it's days as a brown dwarf. My friend compared that to music and the end of originality. Case in point, in the 90's we saw people looking for original ideas in music go to the extremes in ultra ambient and speed-core/grind-core music. Now much of the originality is found not in new ideas but in recombinations of other ideas to form new ones. In truth, I think it's been a while since i saw something in music that struck me as truly original so perhaps there's something to that idea.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:59am

      Re:

      I hate to argue (ok, I lie), but it *is* a new idea to combine existing material in ways previously unthought of (otherwise known as a new idea).

       

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      PaulT (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 10:09am

      Re:

      "In truth, I think it's been a while since i saw something in music that struck me as truly original"

      Operative word there being "me", I suppose...

      White rock 'n roll was considered groundbreaking by many, but fans of the original black artists who were never allowed to hit the mainstream had heard it all before. Percussion rhythms were regularly imported from Africa or India and were considered "new" despite having been played for hundreds of years. Hip-hop made it to the charts over a decade after it became commonplace among New York ghetto kids. And so on.

      It's really the same as it ever was. It's just that your own experience means that you know the music that the new generation of artists are using as influences better than you knew the influences of your peers...

      Not only that, but the modern musical marketplace is rather homogenised and boring thanks to corporate control. Truly unique and groundbreaking music is out there, you just can't stumble across it on the radio in the way you have been able to 20 years ago.

       

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      interval (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 1:19pm

      Re:

      @Joe: "...music and the end of originality."

      So all music up to the 90's was stunningly original??? I hate to burst your bubble and your brilliant friend's bubble at the same time but that's hardly the case. I'll give you two examples, the first one I've raised here before. Classic Blues artist Elmore James is often credited with a standard titled "Dust My Broom", however the same song was recorded by Robert Johnson in the late 30's, and a different version of the title can be heard in the recordings of Blind Lemon Jefferson from the 20's. A contemporary of both Johnson and James, Son House, was heard to describe the song as being a cotton worker's spiritual from late 1880's. And so on. Oh, and tell me Elvis created his classics out of thin air. I'm not sure that he is in fact the author of any of his early work. And I KNOW he heard one or two of Johnson's shellacs.

      Do a wikipedia search on "Greensleeves", you may be amazed to see how far back that song goes.

      The point is, until this "Mine, mine, all mine" mentality art used to grow from the soil of earlier art. Illustrated by the number of cases we see of content industry producers copy writing as original content that they just stole from others. Good artists create, great ones steal, isn't that Picasso said?

       

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:18am

    I gotta say, this dude and his sister were pretty brave about putting this all on front street like this. What a horrible thing to have happened.

    I kind of have trouble separating emotionally the terrible event and this video. I imagine this works much better for lighthearted news stories....

     

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      crade (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 10:06am

      Re:

      Interestingly, the gregory brothers normally do comedy, and this news report was the butt of many jokes due to the vernacular Antoine uses. In this case, however they seem to have actually managed to bring some seriousness and integrity back into the story / phenomenon and change it into less of a viral joke with Antoine at the butt and more into something, still comedy based I think but also paying homage to the seriousness of the event and the bravery and honest emotions involved.

       

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      BBT, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 10:09am

      Re:

      Well, Mike's summary is inaccurate. His sister was not raped, though she was attacked.

      Guy climbed a trash can and came through her 2nd story window. He attacked her, with the goal of rape in mind, but her brother heard the struggle and came into the room, fended the guy off, and he ran away (I guess he jumped out the window?).

      It's hard to treat it too seriously when you look at the way the brother talks about it. It's funny, because if you listen to the song, it sounds like they must have edited the timing of it to sound like appropriate song lyrics, but then you listen to the original newscast and the guy really does just talk like that.

      "hide your kids, hide your wife, and hideyourhusbandscuz theyrapineverybodyouthere"

      But yeah, if you want lighthearted, just watch the double rainbow video instead. Now there's a happy, lovefilled video.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:21am

    Lessons for Los Angeles

    I'm constantly surprised how much more innovative New York's Media market has become. New York has learned to use internet based distribution and sourcing on a much wider scale than Los Angeles. I sometimes wonder if this had anything to do with Conan not working out in LA...

     

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    cc (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:42am

    This really shows the power of the internet: a talented couple of musicians with ZERO marketing or advertising made something that is worth listening to, released it online for anyone to listen to, and it spread on its own!

     

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      chris (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 11:22am

      Re:

      a talented couple of musicians with ZERO marketing or advertising made something that is worth listening to

      on youtube, autotune the news is kind of a big deal and has been for at least a couple of years. they have tons of "marketing" in that they have a pretty significant following.

       

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      Patrik, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 11:31am

      Re:

      You are aware of how auto-tune works, right? It's not all that creative (not in the same way that something like sampling can still be creative). You just pick the notes you want to oscillate between, and pick an algorithmic pattern to cycle through those selected notes... hell you can just "ask" it to set an audio signal to a major/minor scale without any knowledge of what a scale is. Not that it's a bad thing that people with limited musical knowledge can make more complex music now, but we should all know about our craft.

      Or you set it to 'auto-tune' to the nearest 'acceptable' note. So if you sing a Middle A at 216hz (not quite an A), then auto-tune will 'correct' it to the proper 220hz... nothing very musical about it. In fact, those slight deviations from the 'proper' note are what most of us consider "musical." They're a part of what are called "transients" and capturing them is uber important to attaining a lifelike recording. For instance: Frank Sinatra consistently sang a quarter-tone flat (for example: between an A and an A# for the uninitiated); auto-tune would have 'corrected' that and we'd be left with a much less musical sounding performer.

      It's all moot though, there is no "correct" in music. Led Zeppelin tuned ALL of their instruments down a quarter tone--supposedly to make it harder for people to play along with the records, but I don't know that that's totally true. More likely, Robert Plant's voice had greater flexibility in that range.

      And in Mozart's era, a proper Middle A was almost a full half tone lower than what we call an A today. So that means that what Mozart would have considered an A, we would consider an Ab/G# (A flat and G sharp are different names for the same note, by the way)

      Music is so simple!!! Plaese to allow everyone to understandz that they don't need to put any effort into producing it!

       

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        Patrik, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 11:33am

        Re: Re:

        Full Disclosure: I was the guy that did the whole "Auto-Tune on Stephen Colbert" that sort of went viral a few years ago (Stereogum and some of those types of sites ran with it). So I know exactly what these guys are doing. I did it first. Nyah nyah!

         

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    trilobug, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:49am

    This will be the next "club banger" in some locals

    Brilliant!

    This is the best Autotune News I've seen, I'm familiar with the story and it has been the butt of many jokes, but this somewhat tasteful considering, and pretty well done.

    This might be the first song I buy off itunes.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:49am

    But these guys are nobodies, we shouldn't care about them. We still have to finish releasing all of Michael Jackson's unreleased music. Thats creativity.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:50am

    I like the Double Rainbow Song better than Bed Intruder:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MX0D4oZwCsA

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 9:56am

    Give it time and the internet will give the big ol' media a run for their money.

    It reminds me of TAM saying "you people can't create anything that is going to be on the top", I wish I could see his face now.

    And I'm flabbergasted, the brothers got paid, people are buying even when they can get it for free on Youtube.

    That can't be true, we are a bunch of low lifes that want everything for free, "What does that means?"(quote from double rainbow all the way)

     

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    herodotus (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 10:29am

    "Hopefully by now, you've come across the "Autotune the News" phenomenon, where various news clips are turned into sometimes brilliant music numbers thanks to the magic of autotune and some very creative individuals." (Emphasis supplied, obviously)

    Is there any ephemeral music trend that you don't think is cool?

    I mean, I know I come off as a snob, but on most forums that I frequent I am one of the ones telling the snobs that they are off base, that music has evolved, that sampling is a legitimate technique and so on.

    But this place is extreme. I just don't have the stomach for it. You might as well call porn with a musical background a 'brilliant interpretive dance' as call this a 'brilliant music number'.

     

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      crade (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 10:50am

      Re:

      I don't think audiophiles are the target audience for the Gregory Brothers.

       

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        The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 10:57am

        Re: Re:

        I agree. I'm thinking heavy drug users would be their core audience. I found it slightly less entertaining than the musical barf noises Ferris Bueller played on his keyboard.

         

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          trilobug, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 11:08am

          Re: Re: Re:

          People appreciate the transformative nature of it, it being melodic is a plus.

           

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          BigKeithO (profile), Aug 20th, 2010 @ 12:38pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          This isn't something to compare to classical music or anything like that. I think it is popular because the majority of the songs are humorous as well as catchy. I just don't buy the argument that the people who put this stuff together aren't talented. How many people do you know can take a news cast or a commercial and turn it into a pretty good song?

          I personally think the stuff that DJ Porter does is better than this Autotune the News stuff. Check some of his stuff out (Slapchop remix, Press Hop and You Play to Win are some of the best IMO):
          http://www.youtube.com/djsteveporter

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 12:13pm

    Anyone who dissmisses remixes as mere copying clearly hasn't listened to any.




    That, or has only heard stuff from the lazy "remixers".

     

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    Tom, Aug 23rd, 2010 @ 10:38am

    You might want to update the article to mention that it was an attempted rape but unsuccessful. I'm sure the victim would appreciate it.

     

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    iveseenitall, Jan 8th, 2011 @ 12:37am

    Remember real art like real music can only be purchased from big name institutions or seen on the Grammys.

     

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    sprearson81 (profile), Jun 9th, 2012 @ 5:50am

    How right you are.

     

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