[rumori] UR Vs SONY, and so on

The Evolution Control Committee (eccATpobox.com)
Sat, 18 Dec 1999 19:24:49 -0500

    Hi folks... couple things before I get into the meat of it:

    PARTY LIKE IT'S ONLY $19.99: As Steev briefly mentioned, there's a CD
compilation I have coming out soon. It's called "Party Like It's Only
$19.99" and as you might guess it's all music that's either collaged from
or inspired by Prince's 1999. No, I didn't even bother trying to get
permission or do it legally; I presumed it would be refused or too
cost-prohibitive (hey, I feel like Sony!). But actually I feel like the
release is more of a parody of not only the song 1999 but the whole hype
that surrounds the song at this late hour of the millenium. At any rate, a
full message about the release is forthcoming in the next day or two.

    PEOPLE LIKE US WEBSITE: Looks good, well, from the bits I could see
before my browsers crash on me (I use Netscape 4.6 and Opera 3.6 in Windows
95 OSR2). It seems to be the embedded sound; for me it uses a Quicktime
plugin, which crashes after playing one to two instances of the looped
sound. Take a look at the head page on http://evolution-control.com ...
while far from perfect, it does play a looped sound without crashing my
browsers. (actually one of ten randomly picked loops!) I'd be interested
in hearing from anyone who doesn't get the sound loop on my web page or if
it crashes your browser...

At 03:30 PM 12/17/99 -0800, you wrote:
>Fri, 17 Dec 1999 found Jason J. Tar writing:
>->Isn't it quite possible that the folks who did the "cover" version did it
>->out of respect, not simply out of a wish for cash? From the tone of the
>->letter from Sony, it sounds very much like a tribute. I doubt Sony is
>you've got to be kidding! IMHO, from the tone of the letter it obviously
>sounds to me like some sycophantic marketing dork trying to weasel out of
>something. ...

    Actually I stumbled across something recently that is amusingly
similar: the K-Tel's 1984 Breakdance album. It's an amusing idea to begin
with, but like Sony it's an attempt to cash in on a [moreso then]
subcultural trend, and it also features remakes of songs that I wouldn't
expect remakes of -- the version of Herbie Hancock's Rockit by "B.T. and
the City Slickers" is downright laughable. Just to further the similarity
they even have a ripoff cover of a German band's hit song: Tour de France,
as done by "10 Speed".
    I've never heard any complaints of K-Tel ripping off Herbie Hancock or
Kraftwerk with this (not that I would have expected to), but presumably
similar stories might have circulated at the time, and I presume K-Tel just
paid their publishing rights for doing covers and that was that. Sure,
Kraftwerk and Hancock were well known and raking in more cash than Ronaldo
and UR, but to me the main parallel is still there: a company with more
cash and sellout savvy would like to throw artistic integrity out the
window in favor of more commerce. This wouldn't be an inherently bad thing,
except that it's really not their artistic integrity to dispose of.

>anyone else want to chime in here? this is getting boring.

    Hope this helps. :-) In spite of UR and Sony having seemingly
resolved the situation, this is a good topic and I hope people don't drop
it just because of that.

>->If it was strictly a money thing, why would they be so open and happy to
>->send funds to UR? Seems that they would have tried to conceal it, and not
>->have offered UR a cent.
>hello? They DID try to conceal it. They only offered money after the UR
>people approached them asking what the hell was going on.

    Also, the money for doing a cover of a song is significantly less than
if they'd licensed the original recording. For a cover they just pay
publishing rights, but to license the original they also pay mechanical
rights, or something like that.

>->I'm sorry, but I really don't think Sony has done anything "wrong" here.
>->Perhaps unethical, but then again how many of us would be bitter about
>I'm sorry, I don't have a dictionary handy right now, but i've always
>thought "unethical" is basically equivalent to "wrong".
>please explain the difference to me, i'm really curious.

    I gather the idea here is that Sony hasn't broken any laws, but that
doesn't put them in the right. I have a great cartoon of Tom The Dancing
Bug on my wall which deftly explains why corporations do bad things. One
theoretical day, murder is made legal, and a corporation decides to kill
one of its critics. The CEO explains at a press conference: "While I
personally would never commit murder, it is my fiduciary dute as CEO to
maximize profits for the corporation any way possible. It would be immoral
for me not to kill!" And so goes corporate logic.

>2. I've never advocated the freedom to copy something wholesale and make a
>bunch of money selling the copies.

    Right; the difference between bootlegging vs. sampling...

From: "shannon o'neill" <aliasATcia.com.au>:
>This was just posted to the 313 mailing list and if it's true!? It seems like
>a very satisfactory result. ...

    I suppose so; UR probably has a little more attention now than they did
before, thought if it had dragged on longer they probably would've gotten a
lot more exposure from it. BTW the letter is also posted on UR's web site;
presumably it's the real deal. But I agree that it is good to see a
corporation actually reacting appropriately to a grass-roots "virtual
protest" like this.

From: "matt davignon" <mattdavignonAThotmail.com>:
>You or I or Dirk Dreyer can do a cover song as a tribute any day of the
>week. Just because he wanted to record a tribute doesn't mean that he had to
>release it on SONY RECORDS. Most of the appropriation artists that I know of
>from this list don't have records on the shelves of every Wherehouse and Sam
>Goody in town. To me there's a big difference between ripping someone off
>then selling it personally over the internet and ripping someone off, having
>it mass produced by a multinational conglomerate, and drowning out the sales
>of the original. (Although I would imagine that it was only released in

    For the record, I believe I would be pleased to release some of my work
on Sony and get it on the mall music store shelves. However, I would be
unwilling to change the content or intent of my work to accomodate this. (I
would also presume that whatever contract I would sign would appropriately
pay me well, etc.) I have been hand copying cassette tapes and burning
CD-Rs for 12 years now, selling them from my home and via Internet. And do
you know what? I'M FUCKING SICK OF IT! On the other hand, I hope never to
stop making music (if anything I want to make more), and more accurately
the thing I'm sick of is making music that doesn't get heard. I like the
music I make, I want other people to hear and enjoy it too, and my goal is
to distribute it to the maximum number of those people who would enjoy it.
If Sony could help me reach that goal, great... though I suspect for
various reasons (illegal samples; not a hip genre; etc.) I won't be getting
any A&R people knocking on my door for a while.
    In one way we already have appropriation artists on the mall shelves:
Fatboy Slim and so on. Yeah, you and I probably wouldn't want to be too
closely associated with them, but if you asked Dirk for an opinion he'd
probably say we bear similarity. As for tributes, I kind of consider them
the opposite of parodies (though sometimes they're the same), and usually
they're done with the blessings of the original artist. I don't think UR or
Ronaldo would consider Sony's "Jaguar" to be a tribute.

    Questions for all those on the list who are music makers and sound

Q: If Sony offered you a contract to distribute and promote your last
album/tape/CD-R as-is, no changes to the recording, would you take it?

Q: If they offered to pay for your next one, would you take the money?

Q: Would you double-bill with Rage Against The Machine?

From: "Jason J. Tar" <tarjasonATpilot.msu.edu>:
>Just like it isn't "wrong" for ECC to cover/sample "1999", but it is
>perhaps "unethical" given Prince's choices.

    It's also "wrong" in terms of laws, I'm sure. :-) Well, on the face
of it -- like I said above, I consider it a parody and thusly allowable by
copyright law. However I may have difficulty convincing others of this.

>>2. I've never advocated the freedom to copy something wholesale and make a
>>bunch of money selling the copies.
>So, basically doing a cover song is against your rules, eh? Suppose that
>is your right to think so, but I've always seen doing a "cover" song on the
>same level of "sampling".

    I don't see it that way at all. Sampling allows you to incorporate a
song as one element, along with many many other disparate elements, into a
NEW whole/song. Covering produces a DUPLICATE whole/song from your choice
of elements, usually not including a sample of the original (pretty bad
form to do a cover using samples of the original). Btw, the 1999 CD I've
coordinated has one cover, a polka version of 1999. All other tracks are
original tracks created with 5 to 100% samples of the original. I thought
a polka cover made a nice comment on the soul-pop nature of the original song.

>?? How does intention change whether one can sample or not?

    I would be more likely to grant permission to sample my work if they
were doing it for a homeless benefit CD vs. if they were doing it on a comp
CD that A&M will press 50,000 of which would give me little or no author
credit or cash. UR probably has a different but somewhat similar dividing
line on who they'd grant clearance to.

>BTW--When reading UR's statements, I'm a bit confused. Are they upset
>because they don't wish their track heard via a major, or because of the
>money factor? The first would be a valid argument, but as for the
>latter...do you really think that someone who would buy the vinyl would
>decide not to because it is available on the compilation? Don't
>compilations normally spur sales of releases by an artist? I really don't
>think UR and SOny have competing markets....

    I kind of agree with some of these points... when I first read about
this, I presumed that UR had been outright raped of their song by Sony. But
when I got to read Sony's initial response, it made me wonder just what the
real story was... were they offered compensation? Was Sony going to give
them the publishing monies for doing a cover anyway? Seemed that some
points weren't really answered.

    In a way, one wonders if UR found the most offensive part of this whole
debacle to be that a label thought their tracks were vapid enough to be
mass marketable; to be placed in the aisles (and eventually the cutout
bins) right next to "Illegal Rave Vol. 3". And who could blame them?

From: Steev Hise <steevATdetritus.net>:
>->You seem really uncomfortable about money, Steve.
>Yeah, you're right, I'm uncomfortable about money, for the simple reason
>that art and commerce don't mix. everywhere i look commerce is fucking
>over art. so yeah, that makes me uncomfortable.

    I have this poster/slogan that I made once: "The boot of commerce meets
the ass of art." The almighty dollar has a tendency to kick the ass of art
out of the way when it's barring the way to profit. I'm a bit uncomfortable
about money too, but more in that I'm uncomfortable with what people do to
get more of it.

>->That's what I meant when I said we are discussing the very existence of
>We may be getting too far off topic here. But maybe people are interested.
>What do y'all think? speak up if you don't want a discussion about

    I think that corporations are one of the biggest scurges of the modern
age, and also that they are the ones making appropriative music such a
dangerous undetaking. I'm all for a conversation on it.

- Mark G.

eccATpobox.com                                      The Evolution Control
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