Yes, it’s time for a fresh dose of Beam At Alien (at least, for those who are fond of anagrams). These pieces raise a question that’s partly legal and partly philosophical, or at least ethical. But the question may make more sense if you listen to them first. Let’s start with “Isn’t It Good?”:
Next up, “So Far Away”:
Here’s another tune you may recognize — “Tried to Please Her”:
And here’s “Not Just Anybody”:
But all is not lost — we can “Make It Better”:
And in case it isn’t obvious by now, “Life Goes On”:
You can probably “See How They Run”:
Or you could “Let Me Take You Down”:
And let’s conclude today’s tub of nostalgia with “You Were Only Waiting”:
The question that I’m puzzling over is this: At what point does the composer of a song cease to have the right to control (or collect money for) the use of what is essentially a new piece of music that reimagines the original?
These tracks were all done in Reason 7, by the way. More than half a dozen great Rack Extensions were employed — too many to list.
Of course, uploading this material for you to listen to is entirely illegal. I would have to fill out all sorts of paperwork to acquire the licenses. Licenses for medleys can’t even be acquired through the Harry Fox Agency — they have to be cleared with the copyright owner. Harry Fox would charge me about $20 per song (per year, every year), and very little of that would end up in the pockets of the songwriters or their heirs, because $16 of the $20 is a processing fee that stays with Harry Fox.
Clearly, listeners’ reactions to these pieces will be based in no small part on the familiarity of the melodies, chord progressions, and so on. If the music were substantially similar, but original, listeners’ reactions would be different. On that basis, I clearly have an ethical obligation to the songwriters, irrespective of the legal situation.
Or is my ethical obligation to the promotional teams at Capitol Records that brought these songs to your attention in the first place, all those years ago? It’s the promotional people who created your familiarity with the tunes. So my ethical obligation may be quite different from my legal obligation.
Welcome to the modern world.