Friday, October 31, 2014

Originality in the Music Industry

We live in a world where every new idea can be related to a similar idea from the past. Ideas evolve over time to create new technology, songs, and other human inventions. Similar to the idea of evolution among living things, there appears to be an evolution of ideas. For example, the discovery of the wheel worked its way throughout history as part of a chariot, which eventually became part of a wagon, which transformed into the basic part in modern transportation (cars, buses, etc.). Similar to the transformation of the wheel, I believe that ideas are manipulated to form newer, more advanced ideas. The concept of originality loses its significance as more ideas and inventions are brought into modern life.

It is my belief that music relies on originality to survive. If every song had the same beat and similar chords, listeners would soon grow frustrated with the lack of diversity among artists. Due to this, artists seek to create their own music in a unique way. Many musicians use a similar sound or instrument in their songs which differentiates their music from other artists in the same genre. For example, Pitbull often uses Hispanic words and instruments in his songs to make it sound different from other pop artists (and in my opinion, much worse). Tactics like this help artists separate their work from others.

As more and more songs are recorded and shared for the world to hear, many of the same sounds become repeated. With this comes the topic of plagiarism. At what point is the use of similar sounds previously produced by an artist considered plagiarism? This is a very controversial topic that relies mostly on personal opinion. Some believe that any use of copied sounds is considered plagiarism while others believe that the copying of sounds is okay in certain amounts. There are also those who believe no one person can claim ownership of an inanimate object like music. No matter the opinion, the topic of plagiarism is intriguing and easily debated.

One of the most notorious cases of plagiarism in music involves Vanilla Ice’s song “Ice Ice Baby.” This song has a nearly identical baseline as the song “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie. While his song hit number one in America, Vanilla Ice was definitely “Under Pressure” by Queen and Bowie due to the lawsuit being filed against him. Below is a link to a video where Vanilla Ice speaks about how artists need to have music that stands out. He also mentions that he added an additional “ding” sound to the baseline, and therefore it is different from Queen and David Bowie’s baseline to “Under Pressure.” What are your thoughts on the topic? Was the minor change to the baseline and the rapping added over the baseline enough to make the song his own original creation?

My personal belief is that if an artist publishes a song, that song should belong to him or her until death. Once the artist dies he or she no longer has reason to own the song. This would provide solid boundaries for plagiarism cases and encourage artists to create unique music. Once an artist has died, their music should be available for anyone to remix and make new of old music. I believe this would keep music from the past alive and add more history to modern music. For example, G-Eazy remixes the song “Roundabout Sue” and makes it into a modern hit. I can see more hits like this becoming popular if music became available for all to use legally when the original artist passed away.

In conclusion, it is becoming more and more challenging to create unique and original ideas in today’s culture, especially in the music industry. In order to keep music unique, artists often sample parts of songs created by other artists, both legally and illegally. In combination with this, the use of similar sounds allows artists to differentiate themselves in a crowded industry. With a hazy boundary of what is considered plagiarism and what isn’t, I believe a new system needs to be implemented to clarify plagiarism in the music industry. If the original artist is still alive and has not given permission to someone to sample his or her music, it should be considered plagiarism. Once that artist has died, their music should be available for all to sample and remix. This would keep old songs alive for years to come.

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