With musical mash-ups rapidly becoming more significant in our culture, one may ask what implications they have on music as a whole, and if these so called “mash-up artists” should even be classified as musicians.
Many skeptics – particularly music elitists – wrongly dismiss disc jockeys and mash-up artists as not being musicians, with some even taking legal action against them.
Mash-ups consist of two or more popular songs blended together in an attempt to make a new song. They are particularly sculpted and meticulously crafted musical “mash-terpieces.”
In his book, “Mashed Up: Music, Technology and the Rise of Configurable Culture,” Aram Sinnreich explores the fine line between “artist and audience.”
Critics often claim that mash-up is shallow and lacks artistic merit.
But who has the right to define art?
“If I put a painting up on the wall, no one’s gonna say I’ve made art, right? But what if I had 100 paintings and I arranged them in some sort of mosaic form? Well, that might be art. And I might be an artist,” San Francisco DJ Earworm said in Sinnreich’s book.
Art in itself is a fuzzy thing to define.
It is a form of expression that creates something new and unique. Mash-ups certainly meet this criteria. The level of production required by these artists to produce such intricate tracks proves that it takes effort and talent. They spend countless hours perfecting keys and creating smooth transitions between songs. Mash-up artists also endure the difficult task of sculpting limited materials into a smooth, flowing and innovative track.
Popular music blogs such as Mostly Junk Food and Earmilk don’t hesitate to classify mash-up artists as legitimate. Recently, the music blog Hype Machine filtered four mash-up groups onto its most popular music chart, even placing one called The MashMaticians near the top, among Kid Cudi, Kanye West and Sufjan Stevens.
Some may question the legality of the practice. After the Australian group Dean Gray put out a remix of Green Day’s “American Idiot,” Warner Records presented them with a “cease and desist” letter. To this day, many assume mash-up artists are “ripping off” original artists.
While specific laws on mash-up copyrights are unclear, many mash-up artists do not receive revenue for their tracks, and they give due credit to each and every original artist, citing the artists’ names after their own band and track names.
Musicians benefit by having their original tracks modified to create another enjoyable option for listeners.
Tara Petzoldt is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.