Democrats for DJ Drama


Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Doyle used his moment in the "future of radio" panel to mount a defense of mash-ups and DJ Drama, the Atlanta producer victimized by a SWAT raid (reported here by Radley Balko.) Sean Garrett typed up the whole speech, and it's good.

Mr. Chairman, I want to tell you a story of a local guy done good.  His name is Greg Gillis and by day he is a biomedical engineer in Pittsburgh.  At night, he DJs under the name Girl Talk.  His latest mash-up record made the top 2006 albums list from Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and Spin Magazine amongst others.  His shtick as the Chicago Tribune wrote about him is "based on the notion that some sampling of copyrighted material, especially when manipulated and recontextualized into a new art form is legit and deserves to be heard." 

In one example, Mr. Chairman, he blended Elton John, Notorious B-I-G, and Destiny's Child all in the span of 30 seconds.  And, while the legal indie-music download site took his stuff down due to possible copyright violation, he's now flying all over the world to open concerts and remix for artists like Beck.

The same cannot be said for Atlanta-based, hop-hop, mix-tape king DJ Drama.  Mix-tapes, actually made on CDs, are sold at Best Buys and local record shops across the country and they are seen as crucial in making or breaking new acts in hip-hop.  But even though artists on major labels are paying DJ Drama to get their next mixed-tape, the major record labels are leading raids and sending people like him to jail. 

I hope that everyone involved will take a step back and ask themselves if mash-ups and mixtapes are really different or if it's the same as Paul McCartney admitting that he nicked the Chuck Berry bass-riff and used it on the Beatle's hit "I Saw Her Standing There."

Maybe it is.  And, maybe Drama violated some clear bright lines.  Or, maybe mixtapes are a powerful tool.  And, maybe mash-ups are transformative new art that expands the consumers experience and doesn't compete with what an artist has made available on iTunes or at the CD store.  And, I don't think Sir Paul asked for permission to borrow that bass line, but every time I listen to that song, I'm a little better off for him having done so.

Congressfolk understanding art and commerce? Ouch, my brain!

Jesse Walker tackled the rise of mash-ups back in the salad days of 2003.