Monday, April 13, 2009

Two Can Win

This piece is written as a direct response to a recent post by Guy Fawkes over at HHHead:

Most artists appreciate their fans. They realize that were it not for this sea of supporters, their own voice, their art, could remain unheard of; it’s harder than you think to reach a listening ear. But in some cases, the antics of fans – fanatics, definitively – can be detrimental to both the livelihood and reputation of an artist. Bootleggers, specifically, be they audio-rippers, t-shirt vendors – you name it! They think they’re helping out, but more often than not, they’re hurting the cause. And at what cost?

In the bizarro world of the internet, some of these tactics are actually beneficial to artists. To be honest, some of it doesn’t even make sense to me. I mean, practically half of Asher Roth’s new album has been leaked onto NMC websites, track-by-track! Go figure. Artists often leak their tracks with the intent of having their content reach a wider audience. But this is an act of their own doing. Most recently, San Diego emcee Deuce Maxwell reached out to me to release a sample set for his new album, The Plushcat Sessions. And I obliged, gratefully. But what if an independent source were to leak an artist’s content without consent? This is immediately considered a breach of copyright ethics! Why? I guess it all boils down to the fact that the artist (or manager, or exec, or rep…) was never responsible for the leak. Essentially, they’ve been robbed - merely for the fact that something that belongs/ed to them has been taken away. Out of their hands, no control.

In my opinion, this is the reason why artists may be distraught, if not at least resentful, by the samples sets that I compile, along with Kevin, John Q, Thomas and the gang. The artists have no control here. And I get it.

In an effort to ease the pain, I’ve vowed to no longer release sample sets from independent artists. I’ve received requests for albums by Jake One, Brother Ali, Immortal Technique and the like. And I’ve turned them down. Yes, sample sets for albums by you too, Madlib.

You’re welcome.

I’ve also made it a habit to convert my set’s tracklisting info into an image format. This way, the text can’t be type-searched via Google and the like. Hopefully that helps just a bit. I would implore my fellow sample-mavens to follow suit. Just a suggestion.

And as of late, I’ve focused on compiling sets for albums from decades past – the ‘80’s and the ‘90’s. Not only do these sets promise a more fruitful venture (older albums used to feature more samples, and more samples = more fun), but I believe that they can help to spark a revival of interest in the classics. I know of at least one person who went back to check out MC Lyte’s debut LP after I dropped its respective sample set.

At the end of the day, my outlook on the matter has changed drastically since I compiled sample set #1 (wow!) for Jay-Z’s American Gangster. After brief chats with producers like Statik Selektah and DC the Midi Alien, I’ve gained a better understanding on the complications that can arise from such exposure. Madlib’s claims (or the claims of his personal representative) of blogger self-righteousness were not and are not unfounded. So I’ve learned to adjust. Because when it’s all said and done, we’re fans of these artists. And we do it for the culture.

Sample Sets: Hurting Hip-Hop?
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