Failures

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
beatles, grey album, mashup, wu tang

Companies:
capitol records, emi



EMI Apparently Forgot Grey Album Disaster; Issues Takedown Of Wu Tang vs. Beatles

from the haven't-we-done-this-before? dept

I'm beginning to think that EMI is trying to commit suicide, given many of its recent actions. Its latest move is to force offline a wildly popular mashup, mixing The Beatles with The Wu Tang Clan., despite it getting rave reviews and lots of attention... and despite a history of similar actions backfiring massively for EMI.

Let's take a look back. Apparently the folks over at EMI/Capitol Records have no sense of history. Back in 2004, DJ Danger Mouse put together "The Grey Album," a fantastic mashup of The Beatles' "The White Album" with Jay-Z's "The Black Album." EMI/Capitol, who holds the copyright on much of The Beatles' catalog went nuts, and started sending cease-and-desists to pretty much everyone, leading to the infamous "Grey Tuesday" on February 24, 2004, where lots of websites posted the album in protest. Years later, EMI admitted that the Grey Album didn't do any harm, but the company didn't care, saying "It's not a question of damage; it's a question of rights." Except, that's not true at all. If no damage is being done -- and, in fact, such a mashup is likely to attract a lot more attention to your back catalog from an audience who might not be that familiar with it, you're making a pretty huge mistake. That's just business.

Of course, EMI/Capitol refuses to learn. A few years later, when someone put together a Beatles/Beach Boys mashup, EMI/Capitol again sent out cease-and-desists and demanded the IP addresses of anyone who downloaded the album.

And here we are today, as EMI/Capitol (who, last we saw, was trying to bootstrap a fake word of mouth viral campaign, after its suits blocked a real viral campaign) is fighting to stay alive, as it is massively in debt, with little hope of getting out of it.

So what does EMI/Capitol decide to do? The same thing that's helped fuel this downward spiral: send out cease-and-desists on wildly popular mashups.

Towards the end of January, word started spreading online of a mashup put together by Tom Caruana and Tea Side Records, called "Wu-Tang vs. The Beatles: Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers." I have to admit, I've been listening to it a lot the last few weeks, and it's really well done. It quickly started receiving rave reviews online. If you listen, this certainly isn't just playing Wu Tang vocals over Beatles instrumentals. As many noticed, the beats are changed significantly to fit with the vocals.

But, apparently, that's not going to satisfy EMI/Capitol. It's not entirely clear what happened, but the album has been removed from where it was originally posted, and the only explanation is a short comment on February 10th:
Had to remove all Wu Beatles material at Capitol Records request
So, yes, as EMI/Capitol are battling for survival, its lawyers thought the best thing to do with their time was to send a cease & desist to an album that might actually get them some attention and sell some Beatles albums -- and they do so knowing how badly this backfired with The Grey Album, leading many to swear off EMI releases. No wonder they're going out of business.

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  1. identicon
    Andrew Boughton, 15 Feb 2010 @ 8:56pm

    Negotiation

    The problem is not EMI related. It all boils down the the Beatles and the respective estate managers. EMI would gladly exploit any opportunity to monetize it's assets. You are so quick to blame the "Evil" empire, when you know absolutely zip. It's the ARTIST and the estate managers that block these types of deals.

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