Why The Internet Has Been Awesome For Both Musical Artists and Fans

from the cool-story-bro dept

One phenomenon we often write about on Techdirt is how the internet has completely killed the music industry and how it has turned our world into a culturally barren wasteland, deprived of art and even joy. More accurately, we write about people who say such things and point out the inaccuracies, ignorance or basic flaws in their logic.

Critically acclaimed pop culture critic Simon Reynolds was recently interviewed by Andrew Keen and made a bunch of generalizations and claims that are in seeming contrast with his progressive outlook previously shown in musings about punk and post-punk, as well as rave culture.

The interview starts off as you expect it would:
"It's much less likely that you'll be able to make a living doing it."
And how have you measured that 'likelihood'? Even if there are less people making a living from making or performing music, a claim for which I have yet to see good proof, is it really less likely that anyone will be able to make a living off of it?

Instead of backing up his claim, Reynolds continues and discusses the way things used to be in a romantic tone which doesn't change as he compares the old label-centric model to a "lottery", with artists usually having to get "in the red." Misplaced nostalgia. What a long way we have come from that - from a world where artists were at the mercy of corporations to a world of empowered artists in which they are at the mercy of their fans, their customers.

In fact, people have a much larger chance to make a living from music these days. This can be witnessed very clearly in electronic genres, where it is the norm for people to start as 'bedroom producers' and, if they're good enough, they'll get picked up by blogs, then labels and will then be able to build a proper studio and make a living from touring. If they're good enough, according to fans and curators within their niche - not according to label execs or music journalists. Anyone can become a producer and anyone that manages to find an audience and connects with them properly has the opportunity to start making a living from it. It's not easy, but at least it's not a lottery.

Next claim:
"A generation has come along who don't think they should pay for music."
Then explain Justin Bieber. Where does the demand for his merchandise come from? Who is attending his tour events? About 30% of all music recordings are still bought by people under 30, the generation that grew up with the internet. Even the RIAA's numbers show it. That does not take into account live shows or other ways of 'paying for music'. True, the same group used to be responsible for 45% of the purchases, but that still doesn't mean they don't believe in paying for music. Just because only 20% of teenagers will clean up their room out of their own free will, that doesn't mean an entire generation has come along who don't think they should clean. Then again, where would music be without people talking about new generations they do not understand.

Reynolds continues:
"I think there's something about paying for music that makes it more intense; you've got to listen harder to music. If you pay for it you're going to pay attention to the record you bought and get your money's worth."
Does music that depends on the psychological phenomenon of cognitive dissonance really deserve to be bought? At the end of the day, music being available in a 'feels like free' manner, for instance via YouTube or Spotify, means that your music has to stand out. Either by being really good or by having a unique sound. Preferably both. Quality gets rewarded with attention and attention is what can be monetized down the line. No more lotteries.

Then follows a breakdown of mash-ups. Two lines really stand out:
"A mash-up is not something that you'd really want to listen to more than a few times because it's like a joke, isn't it, really?"

"And they're not adding anything. They're not adding--they're not a contribution to the future of music, I don't think."
Come on! That's what my parents said about house music when I first heard it as a kid. Those statements, especially the latter, sound like an echo of the criticisms early rave innovators like Shut Up And Dance and The KLF received from the previous generation that did not understand the new revolution in music.

Perhaps some explanation is needed. Part of the mash-up culture is indeed like an out of control meme - nerd humor at its finest, focused more on the joke than on the art. However that's definitely not what all mash-ups are. Take a look at this live mash-up by Madeon, which we covered a while back:
Or look at Girl Talk. Or look at absolute classics like De La Soul's 3 Feet High And Rising album, which is basically composed of intricate mash-ups layered with raps. The same for the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique album, of which someone composed a great Spotify playlist with all the tracks that were sampled on the album by the way.

Many new, trendsetting genres, such as dubstep or moombahton, rely or have relied heavily on remixing, altering or mashing-up previous works. The outright dismissal of mash-ups as a contribution to the future of music is nothing new though. This dismissal was false when hiphop and house DJs started mashing up disco and funk records in the late 70s and early 80s, and it is false today. Mash-up culture is pop art on steroids.

After Keen notes that "you're not allowed to be on TechCrunch and be too miserable," they aim to end the interview on a cheerful note and start talking about radio (yes, really).
"Anything that can take on the role that radio used to have and deliver new things to people that they're gonna like. It's gonna prosper."
I think he's on to something there. Personally I have very high hopes for something called... the internet. It's common to see people looking for ways in which 'new technology X' can replace 'old technology Y', although that's never the people that grew up using the new technology. The internet's purpose was never to create a way to replace old technologies with some a single new alternative. What the internet has done is take all the different roles of radio such as curator, broadcaster, gatekeeper, commentator, critic, entertainer and more, and it has separated or perhaps eliminated some. Now anyone can take on one of those roles or any combination thereof. It's no longer something exclusive.

Hope you don't mind the sarcasm here and there, Simon. You've got a great mind, but I couldn't let these claims go by unchallenged. If you'd like to retort, please get in touch. We'd be glad to feature it on here.

Personally, I think this is an awesome time for both musical artists and fans right now. There is so much opportunity and freedom. I think it's a great time for music and perhaps it will take some more years and further disruption for some folks to finally be able to see that -- just like the general music industry's shifted opinion about that De La Soul album mentioned above, which was initially met with plenty of animosity from the traditional industry. Luckily, true pioneers ignore such animosity, move on and set the standards for tomorrow for both musical artists and fans.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:23am

    I am not that "more of the same, in a different order" is really good for anyone.

    After all, if everyone is remixing, who is actually making the originals?

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:27am

    If mashups are not creativity, then mashing up musical notes and lyrics should not be considered a form of creativity either.

    I'm old and even I get it, those people are just sad because their world is changing and they didn't learn to cope with change.

    Fine by me though they can think whatever they want, I do know that there is nothing others can do to stop anyone from doing what they want even if it is dumb, illegal, immoral or glorious.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:31am

    Re:

    Taking a pizza hut pizza and putting Frank's Red Hot Sauce on top with pieces of pickle is also creative, but you can't claim that the underlying pizza is your own design.

    Taking a Chevy Camaro and putting a Mustang logo on it is creative, but it doesn't give you the right to claim the underlying stuff as your own.

    More importantly, going to your neighbors house and painting one outside wall mauve does suddenly give you the right to live in the house (and may cause you all sorts of legal trouble).

    Just because it is creative doesn't mean it is respectful of the rights of others. That is the nub, regardless of how creative you may think something is.

     

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  4.  
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    Bas Grasmayer (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:33am

    Re:

    Not everyone wants to be a remixer. :-)

     

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  5.  
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    Ninja (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:35am

    Trololol

    Trolling hard in 3, 2, 1...

    Expect Pirate Mike to surface at some point along with the favorite troll words of all times. We should really make the Troll Awards an gift our most talented ones with a nice slimy troll statue =)

    Ahem, as for the article I understand the guy. It's insanely hard to accept changes. It's inherent of the human being to dislike and avoid changes since it could mean a less favorable environment.

    The real deal is that none of us fully understands the internet as a whole in all its complexity. I'd guess he and many in the MAFIAA actually lack comprehension and aren't doing all these nasty things and saying all the stupid things on purpose.

    Mind you, I still believe the majority of the MAFIAA are complete rotten arseholes.

     

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  6.  
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    Ninja (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:43am

    Re: Re:

    The pizza hut case is not true. You can't 'copyright' the cheese or the other ingredients. And the final mix is different. Not a good example.

    The Camaro example would be some sort of fraud if you try to sell one thing for the other. You are misleading the customer and it's more of a trademark issue. A remix or mash-ups aren't published as if they were original or from the original author. They (usually) don't mislead and when they do then copyright might have a case.

    And finally, the house thing is flawed. It would make sense if you said you were using the art on the neighbor's house with modifications to suit your own tastes. Nothing wrong with that. And if by painting his/her house I created an entire new house in the process (while maintaining the original) then yes, I can live in his house. You see, it's really not a good example. The examples above were out of touch but this one is plain nonsense.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:46am

    wow.

    yeah, the internet is great for having people that know nothing about a subject being able to write their goofball opinion as if it were fact.

    And Justin Beiber? Really? Go look up the history of teen idols sometime there bud.

    This is one of silliest things I've seen on this blog in a long time, and considering how ridiculous this blog is, that's really saying something.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re:

    Do you think that these guys (www.epicmealtime.com) have a right to claim there creations as there own?

    Sure they start with big macs and pizza hut pizzas, but what they do with them should be in no way considered the same as the original product.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:51am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Creative rexmiing of food, but they don't really actually cook much, do they?

     

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  10.  
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    monkyyy, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:53am

    Re:

    srsly? even the video shown had him playing a little tune by himself in the middle

     

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  11.  
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    Chris Brand (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re:

    I really don't get what you're saying here.

    If I design a pizza that uses somebody else's design as a basis, and improve on it on some way, I certainly should be able to claim the new pizza design as my own. Nobody's arguing that the original Pizza Hut pizza design should become mine. Pizza Hut didn't come up with my design, I did. Now, I'll grant you that there's a degree thing here - adding a single olive may or may not constitute something new. Have you listened to any Girl Talk music ? It's definitely not just somebody else's music with a minor addition.

    Same for the car analogy - I haven't heard anyone suggest that the Chevy design should become yours because you improve on it - what I have heard is the idea that Chevy should be able to say "no" to your improvement. Personally, I disagree with that, but do agree that they should be given due credit for their contribution. With cars it's actually much easier, in my mind - if I own it, I should be allowed to make any modifications I like to it. Some of these mashups, though, are more likely touring through the scrapyard and finding all sorts of odd bits and pieces of old cars, and putting them together into a sculpture - so what if the parts used were originally designed by various car manufacturers ?

    The house analogy - I just can't relate that to the subject at hand at all, sorry. Is somebody asking to deface people's CD collections or something ?

    I don't think I want to live in a world where we only have "respectful" art.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:54am

    Re:

    "yeah, the internet is great for having people that know nothing about a subject being able to write their goofball opinion as if it were fact."

    Guess what that makes both of us?

     

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  13.  
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    Dementia (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:56am

    Re:

    No, I really think your post is significantly sillier.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
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    Ninja (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:56am

    Re:

    Thanks for providing good arguments against the examples given that add marvelous value to the discussion.

    Oh wait, you haven't provided everything but arguments to support your point. But your OPINION was registered despite the fact that it says nothing =)

    The Justin Bieber is a great example. If no1 wants to pay for his stuff why is he damn rich and a damn success? Care to actually present some arguments?

     

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  15.  
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    Ninja (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re:

    *anything but

    Damn thoughts flow faster than my hands...

     

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  16.  
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    Another AC, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    "yeah, the internet is great for having people that know nothing about a subject being able to write their goofball opinion as if it were fact."

    True, here's a good example:

    "This is one of silliest things I've seen on this blog in a long time, and considering how ridiculous this blog is, that's really saying something."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Bas Grasmayer (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    I wasn't saying it's something new, I'm talking about the age of Justin Bieber's fans contrasted with the claim that there's a generation that doesn't believe in buying music.

     

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  18.  
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    Another AC, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 11:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    And that makes the creation less valid, unique, or novel because...?

     

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  19.  
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    Lightning McGee, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re: Re:

    So...you saying you can type faster then me pilgrim?

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 11:03am

    I have to notice too that you use the term "musical artists" but don't ever discuss musicians. Seemingly two different things. You don't point out how all of this isn't very good for actual musicians, who are no longer required.

     

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  21.  
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    Bas Grasmayer (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 11:05am

    Re:

    Why not?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 11:14am

    Re: Re:

    Ever heard of Carol Shelby?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
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    SabreCat, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 11:30am

    Thing about Madeon's video there...

    First thought of mine after the song closed: "I want to buy this guy's stuff!"

    Next thought after that: "I'm going to flip through the tracklist he used and buy some of those too!"

    Remix done well is good for both the remixer and the remixed.

     

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  24.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 11:40am

    Re:

    yeah, the internet is great for having people that know nothing about a subject being able to write their goofball opinion as if it were fact. And Justin Beiber? Really? Go look up the history of teen idols sometime there bud.

    ...and maybe you should go look up some of Bas' extensive experience and credentials in music before saying he knows nothing about the subject

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 11:45am

    Re: Re:

    If more of the net music is remixes or "sampler songs", the actual musicians have less work to do.

     

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  26.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 11:46am

    Re: Re: Re:

    If more of the net music is remixes or "sampler songs", the actual musicians have less work to do.

    Riiight. Because art is a zero-sum game.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    AJBarnes, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 11:57am

    Double up here..

    According to the post directly before this one, if Universal would pay correctly, then you can make a REALLY decent living from music sales...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Come one Marcus. You and I both know that there is a finite amount of music in the world. Every time a new "song" is made, and older song is zapped from existence because there just isn't enough room in the world.

    When these remixers make their "music" it doesn't just replace 1 song, it replaces every song used to make the remix. Don't you see how damaging that is?

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 12:09pm

    Re:

    After all, if everyone is remixing, who is actually making the originals?

    Artists. Also, remixing is an artistic tradition; it's called collage.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 12:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oh look, it's Marcus, the dense one. At least you remembered to sign in this time.

    No one claims a zero sum game. However, there is a limited size of the pie for "music" as a whole. The more people buy "music" that has no actually musicians in them (just musical artists), the less money is left to pay actual musicians. So it goes, the supply of money isn't infinite, is it?

    I would love to live in your world for a few days Marcus. It must be truly amazing to live in such a land where money falls from the sky and everyone can do what they want without worrying about getting paid.

     

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  31.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No one claims a zero sum game. However, there is a limited size of the pie for "music" as a whole

    Wow. I would love to live in your world for a few days, where saying "it's not a zero-sum game, however it is a zero-sum game" doesn't even make you bat an eyelid.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 12:15pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Oh no! Things change! That's not the purpose of art!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    JMT, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 12:25pm

    Re: Re:

    "Taking a pizza hut pizza and putting Frank's Red Hot Sauce on top with pieces of pickle is also creative, but you can't claim that the underlying pizza is your own design.

    Taking a Chevy Camaro and putting a Mustang logo on it is creative, but it doesn't give you the right to claim the underlying stuff as your own."


    And if someone did the musical equivalent of that, few people would bother to listen. However if you think these two ridiculously simplistic examples compare to music mash-ups, you don't know enough about the topic to discuss it.

    "More importantly, going to your neighbors house and painting one outside wall mauve does suddenly give you the right to live in the house (and may cause you all sorts of legal trouble)."

    You first two were simplistic, but this is just plain stupid. Your analogy doesn't pass the laugh test.

     

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  34.  
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    heyidiot (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    HA-HA-HA

    "I think there's something about paying for music that makes it more intense; you've got to listen harder to music. If you pay for it you're going to pay attention to the record you bought and get your money's worth."

    Reminds me of a line from one of performance artist Laurie Anderson's songs:

    "Ha ha ha. You've already paid for this."

    Yes, music was so much more enjoyable when it came to us on easily-damaged 12" discs of plastic.

    Laurie had some other advice too:

    "Sit bolt-upright, in that straight-back chair, button that top button, and get set... for some difficult music."

    Ah, the good ol' days!

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 12:54pm

    The Internet has been great for me as an Artist.I have played in rock bands since 1972 and still remeber sitting there packaging 100's of vinyl records with home-made press kits and mailers...........packing them all up and driving to a post office.Tons of work mailing stuff out all over the world for sales and reviews.
    NO KORE !!! YIPPEE KY YEEEH !
    Now I have website,facebook, and seed via P2P on TPB,etc.
    I give out 6 albums worth of stuff from over the years of my Art.It is so easy to do it now.
    Except SOPA/E-PREDATOR krap is coming up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 1:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Tru dat....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
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    weneedhelp (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 1:04pm

    Re: Re:

    Yeah you car analogy fails as well. In the late 80's we put a 67 New Yorker's 440, and a 73 BB 727 in to an 81 Firebird, w/a dana 4.11 rear and plastered Dodge emblems on it. No one was doing this kind swap and while you may be right that we could not claim the original designs as our own, the transormation of a wimpy six cylinder grocery getter in to a unibody twisting asphalt churning ground pounder was all our own.

    The whole automotive aftermarket builds on the design of others and often improves the original designs in the first place.

    Case in point:
    99 crown Vic, plastic intake manifold, known for cracking in the crossover. 430 from Ford, and they will sell you the SAME EXACT FLAWED PART. Dorman was smart enough to realize this flaw and corrected it. They sell it for 230.95.
    http://static.summitracing.com/global/images/prod/large/RNB-615-178.jpg

    So here is a great thought experiment:
    What if trademark/copyright as it is today, was applied to the automotive after market beginning in the late 60's?
    No Edelbrock, Hotchkiss, Moroso... and on and on and on.
    Simple brake pads would require a small loan.

    So before you go blasting others for mashups, remixes, and just plain doing it your way, you need to realize the impact limiting this kind of activity will have in the future.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 1:43pm

    Re:

    "You have technicians here making noise. No one is a musician.
    They're not artist because nobody can play the guitar!"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jztRZ34AEcY#t=0m26s

    "all of this isn't very good for actual musicians" [Citation Needed]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Zero sum game.

    Seemed like you need some help with that is all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    They stuffed a turkey inside of a pig in one video...and in case you're a moron:
    to prepare (food) by the use of heat, as by boiling, baking, or roasting.
    All that meat they use does get cooked in the oven or on the stove.
    So, it is creative and it is cooking.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 2:09pm

    Re:

    If it's so bad why do you read it?!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
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    Kaden (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 2:16pm

    Back in the '70's, I was making a proper living on the road playing 70/30 covers/originals in bar bands. Saturday Night Fever happened, and all of a sudden one guy with 2 turntables and a couple of crates of records replaced countless '5 musicians and a roadie/soundman' bands as the entertainment of choice in bars. For working musicians, that market changed overnight and never really returned.

    Fucking DJs and their fucking records...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    Bas Grasmayer (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 3:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I think it's time to define "musical artists" versus "musicians".

    For instance, many creators of original music have no idea how to play an instrument other than their computers. WIth some dedication, they'll master the piano within one or two years of learning production (sometimes even faster). Same goes for the mashup artists worth listening to - I'm being blunt here, but I have a super critical ear when it comes to mashups.

    Anyway, I think musical artist and musician mean more or less the same. Especially when it gets to a level to be good enough to actually pay for it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
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    Bas Grasmayer (profile), Nov 4th, 2011 @ 3:42pm

    Re: Re:

    Ha! Nice link!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 4:38pm

    Re: Re:

    You have no idea what a mashup really is, do you?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Wyliefishing.com, Nov 4th, 2011 @ 7:20pm

    wylie fishing

    check out http://wyliefishing.com/blog/, up to date fishing reports, temp and visibility data, photo gallery and a blog that is updated daily.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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