Caught in a Mash

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Nick Sylvester delves into YouTube's invasion by video mash-ups. It's getting easier all the time to make mutant music-video hybrids, video sites are getting surfeited with the results, and media companies are mighty pissed off. Sylvester offers a defense.

As far as copyright is concerned, most of these remixes seem to fall under the safeguard of transformative use, though already a number of people are making "remixes" that consist of one single still image set to the music of a new song on the radio — an elaborate work-around for the threat of RIAA piracy lawsuits. (Search YouTube for "Kanye West" and you'll see what I mean.) But there's a more substantial issue here. Most people making remixes have no creative vision and no skills to operate the programs beyond matching audio to video — yet they upload all the same. YouTube is becoming a mess of so-called tribute reels, a composition of small clips and photos featuring specific sports franchises, pro wrestlers, or animal attacks set (all too frequently) to Korn and Nickelback. And yet some of these clips achieve considerable Internet fame! Does the simple fusion of audio to video count as high-quality entertainment?

Answer: Probably from the masher's perspective, less so from the viewer's. I don't come away from the many videos of Kingdom Hearts footage synched to TRL songs feeling entertained. But the people who made the videos are weaving the game and the songs into their lives, becoming more devoted to them than the vast majority of people the game or album-maker is selling to.

And then there are the straight-up "look what I can do" videos, which come from the same inspiration but are more fun to watch. Jesse Walker linked to a pre-YouTube, pre-easy-video-editing Winnie the Pooh mash-up: Here's a quick and sloppy Muppets masterpiece that turns "Eric Stoltz" into a bigger punchline than it normally is.

Jesse Walker had an early look at the music-on-music variety of mash-up back in 2003.

NEXT: Friday Funnies

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  1. Though it is a somewhat different format, you might have also mentioned Machinima.

  2. Maybe these people need jobs.

  3. “Does the simple fusion of audio to video count as high-quality entertainment?”

    If getting drunk at the Kanye West concert is high-quality entertainment, then what is the London Symphony?

  4. Just remember, if you’re doing one-stage mashing, you need fully modified barley. If you’re using other, more standard barley varieties, you’ll need to do two-stage mashing, to activate some of the different enzymes to break down the starches into sugars. Otherwise, you won’t get enough fermentable product out of your grain.

  5. Most people making remixes have no creative vision and no skills to operate the programs beyond matching audio to video – yet they upload all the same.

    True enough. And then there are some of us out there who match our original music to public-domain films to create a whole new product. Here’s one of my more popular ones:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1a6_IRNLw0

    Most of what is on YouTube and other places is unimaginative crap, pirated without remorse and crudely reproduced by hacks, seemingly for the sole purpose of taking credit for someone else’s hard work and artistic vision. Those people are not artists. They’re just one link in the massive internet circle jerk.

  6. “Most people making remixes have no creative vision ….”

    And how does that separate them from the rest of us?

  7. David, you win 2 Internets for the fantastic headline. For those of you who are totally lame and don’t get it, here.

  8. lunchstealer: I just use extract.

  9. Most people making remixes have no creative vision and no skills to operate the programs beyond matching audio to video – yet they upload all the same.

    Pretty much describes 80% of what was on MTV in 1982.

    Does the simple fusion of audio to video count as high-quality entertainment?

    In a world where shows like Arrested Development are canceled while shows like Big Brother, Don’t Forget the Lyrics! and (quite possibly the dumbest show on television)Ghosthunters aren’t brings forth the question of what quality, skill, talent and creativity have to do with this?

    Do I really need to point out that much of today’s music is – in part (or in whole) – created using pre-recorded loops of sounds and music created by someone else.

    Much of music and video these days relies on loop-based programs like Acid and Garage Band while companies like iStock sell photos and video for multimedia guys like me to use in our creations.

    I regularly produce commercials using canned sound effects, 15-year-old royalty free music and stock photography combined with transitions and video effects everyone has seen before.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it’s getting harder to assert true creative primacy over ones music and films these days…sometimes it’s a mere trick of paperwork that defines one thing as art and another similar product as a hack ripoff.

  10. yeah but madpad stock is one thing; the bad guido youtube mashes are mostly in the realm of not even trying.

    or actually what you do when you’re learning how to use a tool – it’s just they’re publishing practice material.

    which is fine and all, just aesthetically painful.

  11. I like extract but can’t get it bulk here in MO. Spray dried malt works just as well, but it’s messy.

  12. “If getting drunk at the Kanye West concert is high-quality entertainment, then what is the London Symphony?”

    Well, it depends on how drunk they are.

    Frank Zappa, for example, wasn’t entertained.

  13. While not “mashups”, there are a ton of things on YT and elsewhere that all follow a general pattern:

    1. Get your dudes together.
    2. Take your dudes to a manufactured park.
    3. Video.
    4. Add righteous dudely music.

    Just one of the many examples:

    youtube.com/watch?v=_E6PMfhN1Qs

    Dude!

    cf:

    youtube.com/watch?v=MUnG3XyakCw

  14. true dhex…but my post should be read not as a defense of idiots doing crappy mashups.

    It’s more of a criticism of the people who put marginally more work into their efforts, call it entertainment and demand respect for their creativity and copyrights for the sole reason that they have a media company and and army of attorneys.

    My point was solely that, in some (many?) cases, the only practical difference between a crummy mashup and a crummy pop song/video is a lawyer with a cease-and-desist order.

  15. “Most people making remixes have no creative vision and no skills to operate the programs beyond matching audio to video – yet they upload all the same.”

    madpad: “Pretty much describes 80% of what was on MTV in 1982.”

    Ooh! Burn! The burny burning of the burning burny burny-burn.

  16. I just have one word…

    Taco.

  17. My point was solely that, in some (many?) cases, the only practical difference between a crummy mashup and a crummy pop song/video is a lawyer with a cease-and-desist order.

    nah. even euro-pop tragedies (i.e. the whole of euro-pop) takes hundreds of man hours. i am still horrified after all these years of hearing stories of twelve hour shifts polishing horrible turds of autotuned baditude.

    boggles the mind it does.

  18. Fozzie Bear in the Samuel L. Jackson role? I wonder if that choice was influenced by Family Guy.

  19. ed,

    Thanks for the inspiration. I downloaded a few horror flicks from the 50s (public domain) and have been putting my own script and music to them. It works even better when I don’t watch the movie before I start putting my own words to it. Lots a fun.

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