AngelCityOutlaw

Do You Still ReMix — Why Or Why Not?

71 posts in this topic

I answered this on the facebook page, but now I have my laptop, but that laptop doesn't have access to facebook at work, and I have an hour before school starts, so I'll reword it here.

OCR is my video game music home.  Growing up it was this place where these great musicians were, and although I have done video game arrangements as far back as 2007, it wasn't until 2015 that I registered for an account on the forums (DarkFlameWolf recruited me for an album from Facebook), and it wasn't until 2016 that I had a remix posted (a big band arrangement of the Metroid Title Theme). I was at the end of my degrees, had just graduated in music composition, education, and performance.  It was the first video game music community I was a part of, and has been one of the biggest sources of personal musical growth.  I have learned about audio production from the community.  I have had 3 remixes posted, I have 2 in the queue right now, and probably I will continue to submit occasionally.

But I am slowing down.  I am wanting to branch out and build my own career as a composer/performer, but in the mean time, I'm just going to grow in any way possible. Posting remixes to OCR serves two main purposes:

1. A testing ground for new techniques, things I've studied recently in music theory, and production techniques I've learned.

2. An outlet for said things.

I'm not a very popular remixer, generally I get some comments on what is posted for about a month after it is posted, then not much after that.  But I really don't care about that. I have a place I can point to and say, my work is there. I find a musician I want to play with, and they ask, "Can I listen to your stuff?" and I can point to what has been posted on OCR (and more limited to Materia Collective now) and say, this is what I do.

I do still remix, although not as much.  My time is spent right now on an original album project.  

In the future, I want to do things that aren't normally done.  I want to make a full, Mahler style video game symphony, or a Mozart concerto style thing, really trying to just nail those styles.  A lot of orchestral video game arrangements are in the cinematic/modern orchestral style, which is great, and I love those.  But there is a lack of legit classical style things, and I want to contribute to that.

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4 hours ago, JohnStacy said:

I'm not a very popular remixer, generally I get some comments on what is posted for about a month after it is posted, then not much after that. 

I'm a fan of your music. :3

Yeah, I don't remix much anymore (I tried to force myself to do so in a compo, which was a crushing failure), though I consider this a temporary affliction. The combination of work ramping up and my computer literally aging itself out of the ability to run my music programs (as in it doesn't have the capacity to play my music back anymore, outside of some really basic shit) has put a real damper on my progress. When I finish taking care of some essential purchases for my new apartment, though, I do plan on fixing this issue.

You hear that, Prophetik? I'mma be coming for you and your computer building skills... soonish.

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I don't remix anymore because I draw cats. I'm sure I have a room in hell waiting for me. :mrgreen:

In all seriousness, I agree more or less with the OP regarding remixes. I haven't made one since 2004 (wow has it been that long?). However, I did end up getting my degree in music and met a lot of great people in the community because of it. I actually found a place to live in Boston because of Vig (Jesse) when I went to school which certainly changed my life forever.

YAY OCR!

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1 hour ago, Meteo Xavier said:

This topic further adds evidence to my theory that OCR folks from across the epochs and such really do keep visiting OCR, they just keep lurking for whatever reason until a topic like this shows up.

Ha! That's what I was thinking when I started seeing some "vintage" names pop up!

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34 minutes ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

Ha! That's what I was thinking when I started seeing some "vintage" names pop up!

Who you calling "vintage"?! :P

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Just landed a new job, also very recently had a kid, so over the last 2 years i've been out of the picture pretty much entirely. That being said, over the last 2 or 3 months, I've started working on a Mario Odyssey Remix Album.

You can find a preview of the first track here:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1DOGSue11MIU8zOX4nNVpEDMj9sdouTt3

It's the first thing I've written in at least a few years.

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I disagree that the songs are never truly "yours". I love my remixes as much as my original stuff, and I will still send them out as demos or whatever. I actually find remixing a much more challenging AND rewarding task, it's just so much more involved and takes a lot more creativity IMO.

I can't really explain how. It could just be my process, but I've always found it easier to write original music as you can just take a song anywhere if it's your own idea - but it's much harder to somehow write more onto an already finished idea. This is a dumb analogy but I can easily make a box, but how can I take a box that's already there and make it better? I swear to god I'm not high.

 

To answer the question, I don't really remix much anymore. I do however like to sandwich them in between a lot of original works - they always seem to cure a bad case of writers block. I'll probably remix from now and to then end of my music career. When I get big you can be for damn certain I'll still be submitting stuff here. Something about remixing is just so refreshing and nice.

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1 hour ago, ad.mixx said:

I disagree that the (remix) songs are never truly "yours"

But they aren't though.

Like, not to sound patronizing here, but I'm surprised people have even been debating this. To be honest, it's a bit worrying.

If you try to sell (or even if you don't) a remix without getting the necessary licensing, royalties etc. the original composer (or other rights holder) can take legal action against you. Like how Vanilla Ice failed to convince the court that him using Queen's bassline was totally fine because it was a transformative work; still got sued. Why? Because it's not his/yours.

You can never have complete creative ownership on something that deliberately contains a melody someone before you created, and you will legally never have claim to it unless the rights are signed over to you.

 

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3 minutes ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

But they aren't though.

Like, not to sound patronizing here, but I'm surprised people have even been debating this. To be honest, it's a bit worrying.

If you try to sell (or even if you don't) a remix without getting the necessary licensing, royalties etc. the original composer (or other rights holder) can take legal action against you. Like how Vanilla Ice failed to convince the court that him using Queen's bassline was totally fine because it was a transformative work; still got sued. Why? Because it's not his/yours.

You can never have complete creative ownership on something that deliberately contains a melody someone before you created, and you will legally never have claim to it unless the rights are signed over to you.

 

I'm talking about more from a personal perspective, not a business one. Of course I'd never sell anything that's not mine, but I do hold my remixes as close to the heart as my original stuff. They still took time, energy, and a lot of creative energy. They tell just as much of a story about my life as original works. That's what I'm talking about.

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3 hours ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

But they aren't though.

Like, not to sound patronizing here, but I'm surprised people have even been debating this. To be honest, it's a bit worrying.

If you try to sell (or even if you don't) a remix without getting the necessary licensing, royalties etc. the original composer (or other rights holder) can take legal action against you. Like how Vanilla Ice failed to convince the court that him using Queen's bassline was totally fine because it was a transformative work; still got sued. Why? Because it's not his/yours.

You can never have complete creative ownership on something that deliberately contains a melody someone before you created, and you will legally never have claim to it unless the rights are signed over to you.

 

Yes, legally and commercially you don’t own it. Creatively, I will assume you did pour a lot of heart and soul into it, as ad.mixx describes above. To me, that matters most. Also, like I said earlier, I am not a pro (ie. don’t earn money with it), it’s just a hobby and it doesn’t make to have money and I don’t have to sell it.

I’ve found that the pro/commercial perspective changes the whole outlook on things severely. If it’s just a hobby, you can get away with just doing what you feel like (within legal limits of course), simply because enjoyment is the primary concern, rather than the financial/legal aspect where it’s more like a job and less about enjoyment and self fullfillment.

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17 minutes ago, Jorito said:

Creatively, I will assume you did pour a lot of heart and soul into it

This is not a subjective thing, and I'm just not sure how there is disagreement: A work that is a reinterpretation (remix), or direct representation (cover) is by definition a use of another's original work. The value that we place on it ourselves doesn't change the inescapable fact that creative ownership cannot solely be attributed to the interpreter. 

17 minutes ago, Jorito said:

the pro/commercial perspective changes the whole outlook on things severely.

Definitely. 

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9 hours ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

But they aren't though.

Like, not to sound patronizing here, but I'm surprised people have even been debating this. To be honest, it's a bit worrying.

If you try to sell (or even if you don't) a remix without getting the necessary licensing, royalties etc. the original composer (or other rights holder) can take legal action against you. Like how Vanilla Ice failed to convince the court that him using Queen's bassline was totally fine because it was a transformative work; still got sued. Why? Because it's not his/yours.

You can never have complete creative ownership on something that deliberately contains a melody someone before you created, and you will legally never have claim to it unless the rights are signed over to you.

 

Not to sound patronizing, but duh (starting a sentence with that can carry more connotations than you think)

I'm sure a lot of people don't look at is they hold creative ownership over what they create.  Almost always, when discussing remixes or arrangements, they are always remixes OF <game> by <composer> remixed/arranged by <arranger>.  Tribute would be a more accurate term.

That said, the creative work that happens to it really does reflect on the person remixing.  Listen to Aquatic Ambience, now pick 50 remixes of it (as good as the track is, I think it has been done to death), and tell me how many of them sound like the same person doing the same thing over and over.  Many will sound different, although the source material is the same.  Some may sound very similar (there are a few EDM versions that sound too close) but for the most part, it will be 50 different interpretations of that track, influenced by 50 different peoples' musical experiences.  

Generally, yes, the work is not yours and remains property of the original composer, or in a lot of cases, the company that owns the game property (a lot of composers forfeit rights as part of contract).  But then again, what is fan media but not just a community that loves to commit copyright infringement? Tales of Symphonia fanart of varying degrees of disturbing?  Copyright infringement. That beautiful picture of Link, Bowser, Samus, and the digdug guy playing leapfrog while Sonic and crew watch in amazement?  Copyright infringement.  A lot of people do these things and understand this.  But they're doing it because of a love of the source material.

This gets into an area of understanding copyright law that a lot of people just don't get.  Legally you have no protection and you are in fact committing a misdemeanor/felony depending on the extent of infringement, but for the most part, a lot of companies look the other way until it catches their attention.  OCR is a testament to that, and has been for quite a few years.  The instant OCR gets a strike and is taken down completely will be a dark day for copyright enforcement.

I don't think most people who do remixes are claiming complete creative ownership, and I also don't think people are going into the mindset of "change one note and it's yours."  Instead, it is what it is, a fan tribute to a form of media many people hold dear, leaving the copyright legality at the door under the good faith that rights holders will continue to look the other way, as a lot of them do.

In my experience, attempting to carve out a market for video game marching band arrangements (both halftime shows and stand tunes), Nintendo will, with one or so exception that comes only on February 33 every 10000 years, decline all rights requests for first party property.  This doesn't count mechanical licenses, which is how most legal game covers happen.  Still working on that.  Going to work through indie companies first.

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I write for games full time, but I still see a lot to be gained from arranging.  So yes!  I still remix when I have the time.  I'll try to be concise for a change:

  • You get to make a piece of music you enjoy listening to (and perhaps learn what exactly it is you enjoy in a piece of music)
  • You get to study that piece's structure, harmony, etc. and apply what you learn to your own originals (though I find straight transcription to be even more useful for learning)
  • You get to practice strengthening your weak points without the pressure of writing an amazing original melody/chord progression/bassline/drum groove/whatever, since it's already done
  • You get to learn how to reuse pieces of a track to improve your arrangement game (mostly for soundtracks or theme-related albums, but it's been extremely useful for me in a work setting)

I think in terms of potential for musical growth, there's a LOT to be said about arranging, and I think the inspiration and forward momentum someone can get from an existing tune/game they love is also an important part of the remixing game.

For what it's worth, I don't find the "is it mine?" debate to be very useful.  Something I consider MUCH more important when I make a remix (or any piece of music) is "do I like listening to it?"

EDIT: I also think looking at building an audience in terms of remixing vs. originals is silly.  Those who will be interested in your originals will be interested regardless, and those who won't, won't - it's not a matter of "splitting your audience".  If a remix was what got the ears there to listen to your other music in the first place, it can only help

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10 hours ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

This is not a subjective thing, and I'm just not sure how there is disagreement: A work that is a reinterpretation (remix), or direct representation (cover) is by definition a use of another's original work. The value that we place on it ourselves doesn't change the inescapable fact that creative ownership cannot solely be attributed to the interpreter.  

Black and white and legally speaking, yes. Fortunately the world isn't just a black and white legal thing, and this attitude completely bypasses all the other (good!) arguments as to why people remix or not. From what I've read so far, people don't mind not having full ownership but still take pride and ownership of THEIR take on it, while still acknowledging, and honoring, the original creator's work.

We can debate legal all day if you want, but it's probably gonna be a boring discussion and OCR probably also isn't the best place to do it, given that most people are aware of the grey area these remixes are in. Just my $0.02.

Other than that, I like the discussion and insight shared so far, keep 'em coming!

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Some people don't care how the legal and business circumstances pan out.

In fact, a lot of people don't.

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6 hours ago, JohnStacy said:

I don't think most people who do remixes are claiming complete creative ownership, and I also don't think people are going into the mindset of "change one note and it's yours."  Instead, it is what it is, a fan tribute to a form of media many people hold dear, leaving the copyright legality at the door under the good faith that rights holders will continue to look the other way, as a lot of them do

All good insight, but it's better directed elsewhere, as it's not what the arguments against my point have been; I have literally been debating that creative ownership is not solely yours if your work uses someone else's against people who appear to disagree with that statement.

1 hour ago, Jorito said:

Black and white and legally speaking, yes. Fortunately the world isn't just a black and white legal thing, and this attitude completely bypasses all the other (good!) arguments as to why people remix or not.

Never once have I said lack of creative ownership is a reason why other people shouldn't remix music; I specifically said that it's fine, but I personally now find it more appealing to have tunes that are mine through and through. It's like a biological child.

2 hours ago, Phonetic Hero said:

I also think looking at building an audience in terms of remixing vs. originals is silly.  Those who will be interested in your originals will be interested regardless, and those who won't, won't - it's not a matter of "splitting your audience"

I don't think that's well-supported given the talented remixers with large fanbases who have still expressed disdain at a lack of interest in their original work.

It's like Metallica's Black Album. I know plenty of people who love that style of Metallica, even your grandma loves Enter Sandman, and absolutely hate their "thrash metal" albums before it, but a lot of original fans from the "Kill 'em All" day hated it and accused the band of being "sellouts". I don't think there's ever been a band that hasn't run into this kind of thing.

49 minutes ago, PRYZM said:

Some people don't care how the legal and business circumstances pan out.

In fact, a lot of people don't.

True

 

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18 minutes ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

All good insight, but it's better directed elsewhere, as it's not what the arguments against my point have been; I have literally been debating that creative ownership is not solely yours if your work uses someone else's against people who appear to disagree with that statement.

Man I ain't read
That's a lot of text


Anyway, side conversation.  How far do you have to go to manipulate source material to make it something that could be considered new?  Ives wrote a piece that is literally just a hymn slowed down beyond recognition.  He is credited as composer, although he didn't actually alter anything else beyond the speed of the music.  There is also another that stretches a recording of Beethoven 9 to be 24 hours long.  Again, credited as a new composition.  I am no stranger to this, Reflecting pool slows down the Underwater theme from Super Mario Bros to 12.5% speed.  The melody is the only thing, and it goes so slow that most people don't catch it at first.  If I were to remove the first part (melody), the other 6 parts would be heard as a new piece entirely, but with the melody, it could be seen as a very liberal arrangement.

The law can only be so clear due to the subjective nature of it.  

For the people in this discussion, what are your thoughts on this?  There is a point where you can move far enough away from the source for it to be considered a new work.  Where does this happen?

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36 minutes ago, AngelCityOutlaw said:

I don't think that's well-supported given the talented remixers with large fanbases who have still expressed disdain at a lack of interest in their original work.

It's like Metallica's Black Album. I know plenty of people who love that style of Metallica, even your grandma loves Enter Sandman, and absolutely hate their "thrash metal" albums before it, but a lot of original fans from the "Kill 'em All" day hated it and accused the band of being "sellouts". I don't think there's ever been a band that hasn't run into this kind of thing


mmm, if I can expand on your point without derailing too much - When I started remixing, my thought process was "people who hear my remixes will be interested in what I do" - which generally isn't the case in my experience. Yes, you get people who follow you and what you do, but in general, people will just stick to where they want to be. People who find me on youtube stay on youtube, people on OCR stay on OCR, people on New Retro Wave stay there etc etc. The mistake I made was assuming that people were interested in ME, but they're just interested in whatever site I use to promote myself. Suddenly, instead of having a bunch of "WillRock fans" i've got OC Remix fans, New Retro Wave fans, Ubiktune Fans, who just happen to know about my stuff, but not enough to REALLY look into me and what else I do. As a result, it feels like i've got a selection of split up mini-fanbases who like specific things I do in specific places, and then there's the 1 in 100 who actually follow me. 

I actually remember James Landino discussing how to become popular and he said something similar to this: Stay in one place, and become known for something very specific and corner that area. Don't split everything up and get disjointed groups of people listening to your stuff who don't really know or care about you. I put a LOT of effort into my OCR rep so as a result, i'm much more known for my remixes, and as a result, my originals suffer because I can not promote them here, not in the way I would like, and my original stuff is a bit spread out due to issues getting my stuff released where I want. I would say its not silly to try and figure out what it is you want to do because that opens you up to different fanbases and if you don't force your stuff in their face, they won't look your way. You have to be as visible as you can be and if you try and spread out too much, you won't be visible anywhere :(

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27 minutes ago, JohnStacy said:

The law can only be so clear due to the subjective nature of it.  

For the people in this discussion, what are your thoughts on this?  There is a point where you can move far enough away from the source for it to be considered a new work.  Where does this happen?

I think the 2 lines I quoted more or less sum it up. I think there's no objective point or hard barrier where it would be considered a new work, otherwise there wouldn't be these legal suits every once in a while. So I'd say it's pretty much subjective and on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes you get recognition for your work as original, sometimes you get a lawsuit. In either case you were very likely inspired by another piece (or pieces) of music and probably used elements of that and of other works you've listened to in your work. I guess technically that means most work is derivative on a certain level anyway...

But to make this more confusing still... what about sampling stuff? I think earlier in this topic we saw a reference to Vanilla Ice for getting sued for using the Under Pressure bass line. But what about songs from The Prodigy that use samples from a lot of places for many different parts in the song (drums, bass lines, vocals, guitar riffs) or hip hop tracks that incorporated entire sections of a song? Does that count as new work, by just creatively re-using existing materials literally? Is it different from taking a source and recording it yourself on different instruments? I think that's a very tough decision, and I would suspect (didn't check) if you'd check legal procedures for a hint of where the border is, it would probably go either way.

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36 minutes ago, JohnStacy said:

For the people in this discussion, what are your thoughts on this?  There is a point where you can move far enough away from the source for it to be considered a new work.  Where does this happen?

Larry thinks it's anything that uses source less than 50% of the time in the arrangement. ;)

I kid, but it certainly is an interesting question. I remember ages ago where Deadmou5 accused someone else of "stealing their material" because the song in question used a similar chord progression to one of their songs ("Some Chords", I believe), and the community was pretty split on it. I was of the belief that chords are universal, but I was havin' people accuse me of not being a musician because of how wrong they thought I was.

Oh boy.

So yeah, there is a level of subjectivity and culture laid into that question. I'm personally of the opinion that there is nothing truly new and original in tonal music, so if the music transforms a theme or source even a little bit I consider it something new and interesting. However, that's coming from a musical nihilism of sorts - the belief that since nothing is original anymore, everything becomes interesting and worth listening to in it's own right, regardless of how small the variance. Hell, even different performances of the exact same piece can grant a keen listener a very different experience, as long as you don't hang yourself up on the originality of it too much.

That certainly doesn't cover any legal definitions of when something becomes the arranger's own piece of copyrighted music, but as far as I'm concerned if you're putting your own spin on some music (changing genre, re-arranging the themes, etc.) that piece philosophically becomes your own.

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33 minutes ago, Gario said:

So yeah, there is a level of subjectivity and culture laid into that question. I'm personally of the opinion that there is nothing truly new and original in tonal music, so if the music transforms a theme or source even a little bit I consider it something new and interesting. However, that's coming from a musical nihilism of sorts - the belief that since nothing is original anymore, everything becomes interesting and worth listening to in it's own right, regardless of how small the variance. Hell, even different performances of the exact same piece can grant a keen listener a very different experience, as long as you don't hang yourself up on the originality of it too much.

You hit the nail on the head here, and I wasn't going to outright say it.

But since he said it first, please forward all hate mail to Gario :-P

The reality is that tonal music and the techniques regarding composition and especially where harmony are concerned, are the result of physics and psycho-acoustics with centuries of study behind it that saw aesthetic patterns emerge. This gives us a finite amount of scales/modes, harmonies, harmonic progressions, etc, — colours with which to paint — that have been generally agreed upon to be aesthetic, and do result in formulas, but can be presented in an infinite amount of combinations.

That is where the individualism, and the art, comes in. However, your ability to do this, is dependent on your mastery of the finite aspects — the craft.

We live in a time where people hate standards. Because where there are standards there will be judgement, and people have been raised to resent judgement. Where art is concerned, this means your art may be judged inferior. And it takes a lot of work to hit a high standard.

Under this nihilism: Atonal, melody and harmony-free music is just as great as the works of Beethoven or contemporaries like Jerry Goldsmith or Williams. Nonsensical graffiti tags, which is defacing property and undermining civilization, is just as valuable "art" as Michelangelo's work at the Chapel. Remakes, reboots, and remixes are just as significant in the history of a medium as the progenitor because "well nothing is really completely original anyway!"

It's not to say these things are valueless or can't be great in their own right in context — but I will disagree, without any repentance, that they are inherently of the same caliber. 

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