There is an underlying challenge in Remix, Lawrence Lessig’s recent book about copyright reform in the age of fluid and rapid technological change, regarding how the market adjusts to perceived abuses. The “MP3 blog” phenomenon is good example of this. While the MP3s linked to daily from the Downstream section of this website, Disquiet.com, are all posted by musicians with the intent that they are downloaded for free, many bloggers post MP3s as sample tracks of commercial full-lengths, EPs, and singles. Whether or not such an activity qualifies as “fair use” is a subject of discussion, as is whether the activity is all that different from a radio station broadcasting a song, in that it’s largely promotional.
Many of these blogs, with that very legal issue in mind, post a note saying that any copyright holder can request a given song be taken down. What is indisputable, though, is that when the music is made freely available, it goes a long way to helping present the subject — it means a lot more to hear a song, than to only read a review of the song. (I’m currently participating, this week, in a group discussion of Lessig’s Remix at artsjournal.com/gap.)
Over at the blog sonicrouter.blogspot.com, the site took an interesting spin on the “MP3 blog” mode when interviewing the Scotland-based Village Orchestra (aka Ruaridh Law). The site commissioned an exclusive mix from Law (his surname, yes, is somewhat ironic in this context), who DJs in addition to making his own, original music. He put together a genre-spanning mix with micro-techno from .SND and the experimental electronica of Boards of Canada, as well as unreleased tracks by Warp Records cornerstone Squarepusher, Oscar-winning rappers Three 6 Mafia, and others. The mix is a clever means to give a listen inside the head of the interview’s subject, not just because of the range of the material, but because it’s a proper mix; rather than a series of individual tracks, they’re all melded together with expert transitions that shed light on the relationships between the various songs.