Music of the United States

Davidson College, Fall 2015

Category: Blog (Page 1 of 3)

Online Streaming as an Enemy of Music?

The question of whether online streaming services are beneficial for artists and the music industry is a considerably complicated issue that has been a hot debate topic in recent years. The service has often been accused that it does not treat the musicians in a fair manner. In 2013, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke called Spotify, “the last desperate fart of a dying corpse” when referring to the music industry and its attempts to revitalize itself. In July of 2014, Taylor Swift wrote a Wall Street Journal editorial,  “the value of an album is, and will continue to be, based on the amount of heart and soul an artist has bled into a body of work.” Swift does not see a notable difference between piracy and online streaming services. She explains that “Piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically, and every artist has handled this blow differently.” Swift believes that all artists should not take this new situation lightly. She emphasizes “that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.”

MUSIC DEBATE PICTURE

Online services consistently underpay the publishers and songwriters, who are rightfully deserving of their shares. The Wall Street Journal brings to our attention that some music-publishing executives estimate that services such as Spotify, YouTube and Google All Access collectively owe 50 million to 75 million dollars in royalties to songwriters and the music publishers who represent them. This total amount is not confirmed; however, it is a general consensus that the systems currently in place do not adequately keep track of whom to pay and how much they are owed.

The issue is mainly thought to be connected to the complex rights involved in the process of music sales. The majority of sales royalties are owed to the record company. The record company is responsible to divide them up with the artist in terms of their individual contract. Additionally, a much smaller fragment is due to the songwriter responsible for the written words. The record company owes the songwriter and/or publisher an estimated 10 cents for each copy of the recording that is created.

Streaming services, like Spotify, are generally required to pay a partial royalty to the record company for the recording, which is customarily valued at ten percent of the total royalty. According to the Wall Street Journal, in December of 2014, that amounted to slightly less than four percent per stream on Spotify in the U.S.

The record companies generally do not include the songwriter and publisher information for the streaming services. This omission is making it harder for the streaming services to adequately pay these artists and thus creating an unfair environment.

A separate Wall Street Journal article has recently stated that Spotify is considering giving in to big-name artists’ demands, such as Taylor Swift. “Spotify has told music executives that it is considering allowing some artists to start releasing albums only to its 20 million-plus subscribers, who pay $10 a month, while withholding the music temporarily from the company’s 80 million free users.” The fact that Spotify is considering making  these changes is a powerful example that Swift and other artists have a significant influence on Spotify and other streaming services.

In summation, the artists of our time should be adequately rewarded for the work that many of us are able to take advantage of through online streaming services. Many artists see these services as an enemy of the music industry. According to Audiam Inc., a technology company with the main goal of to recover unpaid royalties, Spotify only paid songwriter royalties 79 percent of the time. This is an unacceptable way to treat the artists of our time. However, now that many consumers no longer feel the need to buy products, it is difficult to prevent streaming services to dominate the market of music consumption. There needs to be a more accurate way of keeping track of the artists to pay and how much’ however, currently it seems that Spotify will continue to attract a majority of the consumers in the industry.

Works Cited

Karp, Hannah. “Spotify Considers Allowing Some Artists to Withhold Music From          Free Service.” Wall Street Journal. 8 Dec. 2015. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.

McIntyre, Hugh. “Taylor Swift Vs. Spotify: Should Artist Be Allowed To Opt Out of             Free Streaming?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 8 Aug. 2015. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

Seabrook, John. “Spotify: Friend or Foe? – The New Yorker.” The New Yorker. 14          Nov. 2014. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

Swift, Taylor. “For Taylor Swift, the Future of Music Is a Love Story.” The Wall Street  Journal. 7 July 2014. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.

 

 

Philosophical Issues with the Synthetic Trumpets in Jason Derulo’s “Trumpets”

In class, we examined some of the reasons why Jason Derulo’s use of synthesized trumpets in his song “Trumpets” is potentially problematic economically for small musicians. However, some might argue that musical progress is worth such a sacrifice. On closer examination, though, it becomes apparent that the use of synthetic trumpets is problematic for philosophical reasons, not merely economic ones.

First, we will show how this substitution removed physical trumpets from the song. Some might claim that it does not matter that Derulo used synthetic trumpets, since these perform the same function as a physical trumpet would in the song. However, it is clear that merely performing the same function does not make two objects the same. As a musical example, consider a composer looking to add a percussion instrument to keep time. Said composer could employ a bass drum, a hi hat, a shaker, a triangle, or any of several other percussion instruments, all of which could keep time. However, these instruments are all obviously different, and thus the fact that synthetic trumpets can perform the function of physical ones is not sufficient to justify the decision to use synthetic trumpets.

Still, some would cling to the idea that synthetic trumpets are the same as physical ones. The two differ in several properties, though, which makes this claim difficult to believe. First, the two clearly sound different. For a musical instrument, this distinction is particularly important. In addition, by the Sachs-Hornbostel instrument classification system, a trumpet-class instrument is one “in which the vibration of the player’s compressed lips sets the air column in motion” (Enrico). While a physical trumpet meets this definition, synthetic ones do not, suggesting that these instruments are not the same. A third difference in these instruments is in terms of their sound capabilities. A synthetic trumpet can produce rhythms and sounds far beyond the scope of what a physical trumpet can. Based on these myriad and significant differences, it is difficult to believe that these instruments are the same.

Having now shown that Derulo removed physical trumpets from his song, we will now illustrate why this is philosophically important. The first reason this is problematic relates to Derulo’s claim with the song. Per google play, Derulo sings “and the trumpets they go” (emphasis mine), not “and the syntehsizers emulating trumpets go”. In a song titled “Trumpets” that references trumpets numerous times, we would expect to hear real, physical trumpets, but instead we are given something different, as we demonstrated above. While this is most certainly not malicious, it is still apparent that the song essentially lies to listeners, and that is problematic.

Even more troubling, though, is that this song, albeit unintentionally, essentially pushes the elimination of physical trumpets from the public. By claiming that the synthetic trumpets are real ones, Derulo suggests to the public that the synthetic ones are in fact real. Someone listening to “Trumpets” performed with physical trumpets would think something is wrong. The trumpet part would sound different, and thus would not be thought of as played on the correct instrument. Thus, we see how a physical trumpet could then become replaced with a synthetic one not just in this song, but also in the public view. Artistically speaking, this carries serious implications, as one of the world’s oldest instruments would be lost.

It is important to note that Derulo and his team certainly did not write and perform “Trumpets” with the intent of demeaning the physical trumpet. However, it is hard to deny that Derulo failed to use a real trumpet in a song named after them. In doing so, Derulo not only makes a dishonest claim, but also threatens the real trumpet. Therefore, this decision has clear philosophical consequences as well as economic ones.

 

 

Works Cited

Enrico, Eugene J. “Wind Instrument | Music.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2015. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.

Google Play. “Trumpets – Jason Derulo.” – Google Play Music. Google, 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.

Computer Composition

Emily Howell’s compositions find inspiration from the works of the famous Bach, Mozart, and Rachmaninoff. It is only with an expansive knowledge of past works that Emily is able to compose at such a record breaking pace: her own works number somewhere beyond five-thousand, including operas and original compositions. Each pulls upon centuries of success in both human expression through music and the evolution of musical technologies in production and distribution. In fact, Emily may represent the pinnacle, or the endpoint, of this evolution and success.

Emily Howell is a computer program that uses data inputs from listeners and analyses of the works of famous musicians to compose its own pieces at a remarkable pace and quality. In other words, Emily finds similarities in past works and uses them as the foundation for its own compositions. This is not unlike the composition process for humans. Emily’s creator, composer David Cope, notes that “We don’t start with a blank slate… in fact, what we do in our brains is take all the music we’ve heard in our life, segregate out what we don’t like, and try to replicate [the music we like] while making it our own.” (2) This is evident in the results of Emily’s work. It is virtually impossible to distinguish the computer’s composition from the works of its human peers.

Emily’s development and other advances in computer music and composition raise a number of questions for the future of musical composition and production. From a business standpoint, this is a very profitable development for record companies. A single program can produce countless works based off of what most have deemed critically appealing. This is an incredible return on investment, along with a potential reduction in the cost of labor. Moreover, it makes the challenging task of determining what appeals to the consumer much easier. What is currently an extensive  process could be completed in a fraction of the time and costs.

Beyond a business perspective, Emily’s creation plays an interesting role in the realm of human expression. Music at its most basic is a form of human expression. The composition of music is an extension of this, but what about computer composition? Although the computer, a non-human, is doing the composing, it is based off of past works. This does create a semblance of human expression in it work. However, this is merely a simulation of past expression by human composers. The computer certainly creates something of its own, but its foundation remains in the work of humans. This new creation is merely simulating what human music is like.

Ultimately, the development of computer music is certainly groundbreaking and at times exciting. There are still many issues to further examine, such as the implications of the computer’s works on human expression in music and the economic impacts on the recording industry. Either way, Emily will continue to release its work without humans being able to notice the difference between its work and that of its human peers.

Works Cited

Wilson, Chris. “I’ll Be Bach.” Slate. Slate, 19 May 2010. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.

The Negative Impact of Piracy on Musicians and the Music Industry

With the expansion of technology has inevitably come financial damage of some kind for the artists involved. In fact this isn’t a new phenomenon by any stretch of the imagination. Ludwig van Beethoven suffered from piracy of his work when unauthorized publishers published it (Neuwirth 104). This ended up driving down the price that others would pay for his work and in turn hurt the amount he made.

Today, obviously, piracy is much more widespread and its effects are seen on a much wider scale than ever before. According to Cisco, just between 2008 and 2014 file-sharing, the largest medium of piracy today, has grown 44% in the US and that figure is slated to grow to 51% by 2019 (Steele). Many have hoped and claimed that free streaming services like Spotify would curb this trend, but so far there hasn’t been any indication of this.

And these numbers have startling financial effects. The Institute of Policy Innovation estimates that piracy costs the US Economy $12.5 billion dollars along with 70,000 jobs (RIAA). And this hurts more than just the record companies and award-winning artists. Losses due to piracy hurt all those who do behind-the-scenes type work. According to the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the number of full time songwriters in Nashville has dropped 80% since 2000 (Rau). Other recent studies have shown that illegal downloads and file sharing can reduce music sales by up to 30%, and this decrease in sales has been a bane to the industry because, according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics the number of people classified as “Musicians and Singers” is down 27% or almost 20,000 people since 2002, which stems from a lack of incentive caused by decreased sales (Steele).

File-sharing and piracy hurts the development of new artists in other ways as well. Joshua Friedlander, Vice President of Research at the Recording Industry Association of America detailed this in his article, “Nobody Stole the Pie.” The sales of top selling albums dropped more than 50% in the last 10 years and “ In the last 10 years, the major record labels’ direct employment in the United States fell from about 25,000 people in 1999 to less than 10,000 today – a drastic reduction of over 60% in people who enable the creation and development of new music” (Friedlander). This decrease in sales, he claims, decreases the amount of investment that can go into developing and investing in new artists.

The point I am trying to convey is that technology, despite its benefits has in the past and will continue to hurt the music industry on a level more personal than the record conglomerates. For every one Justin Beiber that is created thanks to new technology, thousands of smaller musicians lose their jobs thanks to pirating technology. Piracy hurts those who most depend on their work for a living and who make music production their passion. Piracy has real effects and causes real damage in the industry, and I believe that that is something we all need to take into account when examining the dynamic between music and technology.

Works Cited:

  • Friedlander, Joshua P., and Jonathan Lamy. “Illegal Downloading = Fewer Musicians.” RIAA. Recording Industry Association of America, 19 July 2010. Web. 04 Dec. 2015. <http://www.riaa.com/blog.php?content_selector=riaa-news-blog&blog_selector=Illegal+Downloading_Fewer+Musicians&news_month_filter=7&news_year_filter=2010>.
  • Friedlander, Joshua P. “Nobody Stole the Pie.” RIAA. Recording Industry Association of America, 3 Mar. 2010. Web. 04 Dec. 2015. <http://www.riaa.com/blog.php?content_selector=riaa-news-blog&blog_selector=Nobody_Stole_Pie&news_month_filter=3&news_year_filter=2010&searchterms=nobody+stole+pie&terminclude=&termexact=>.
  • Neuwirth, Robert. “The Culture of the Copy.” Stealth of Nations: The Global Rise of the Informal Economy. New York: Pantheon, 2011. 104-05. Print.
  • Rau, Nate. “Nashville’s Musical Middle Class Collapses.” The Tennessean. Gannett, 28 Jan. 2015. Web. 04 Dec. 2015. <http://www.tennessean.com/story/entertainment/music/2015/01/04/nashville-musical-middle-class-collapses-new-dylans/21236245/>.
  • RIAA. “Scope Of The Problem.” RIAA. Recording Industry Association of America, n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2015. <http://www.riaa.com/physicalpiracy.php?content_selector=piracy-online-scope-of-the-problem>.
  • Steele, Robert. “If You Think Piracy Is Decreasing, You Haven’t Looked at the Data.” Digital Music News. Digital Music News, 16 July 2015. Web. 04 Dec. 2015. <http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2015/07/16/if-you-think-piracy-is-decreasing-you-havent-looked-at-the-data-2/>.

Do Sampling and Copyright Laws Impede Musical Creativity?

Sampling is the digital process by which pieces of recordings are reconfigured/transformed into new music. The method of sampling became popular in the 1980s, with this new concept of borrowing music and using it in other songs. New digital technologies have given the power of producing to a much wider range of people, so the case of sampling and infringement on copyright laws has become ever more apparent. Producers and artists place production licenses on their music, so if another artists wants to use a sample of that song then they have to request permission and potentially pay a pretty heft fee, along with legal stipulations. Today, the music industry has created this clearance movement that creates the feeling that every audio quote should be licensed. This sample clearance system has been criticized for impeding musical creativity. The system shuts down creativity and “pushes the most complex and musically interesting sample-based works into either the noncommercial sector, the underground economy, or nonexistence” (McLeod and DiCola, 188). Clearance comes at a high price most of the time, which also discourages musicians from producing songs. Hip-hop is the core genre that sampling really affects. De La Soul’s Trugory references the deterrence of sampling in hip-hop with, “I think for me personally hip-hop loses a little bit of its feel because of it. You know, when you can’t sample, I think it definitely loses a big part of what hip hop is”(McLeod and Dicola, 191). The heavy cost that comes along with requesting a sample and all the stipulations  with using another musician’s work drains the artist and leaves a profound interruption on his/her creative processes.

Artists find ways to work around the copyright protection and increased policing of samples. Often times, artists either drop their song idea, the sample, or just find more subtle ways to work around the intense copyright laws. They use fewer samples, or smaller ones, to decrease the cost of their production, re-create the music with a live band in the studio, use substitutes for expensive samples, distort the sample to a point where it is nearly impossible to detect, or just completely avoid the mainstream distribution methods and go underground (McLeod and DiCola, 201). These methods have all proven successful for some artists, but there is no denying that the effort it takes to work around sampling laws reeks havoc on musicians’ production means. This expensive licensing system places heavy constraints on the creative process, mainly for Hip-Hop artists. While the sample clearance system helps to protect illegal use of other’s work, the system as a whole has reached a heightened level, where artists are stopped in their tracks from producing new, innovative music. With the negative side-effects of the system in mind, there definitely needs to be legal and business reforms to the system to make sampling more approachable to musicians. If these reforms are made, then the constraints on creativity will be broken and artist’s new ideas can once again thrive in the musical world.

 

 

Works Cited:

McLeod, Kembrew, and Peter DiCola. “Consequences for Creativity.” Creative License: The Law and Culture of Digital Sampling. Durham and London: Duke UP, 2011. Print.

Motown: Music as a Corporate Entity

Motown produced many records during the 1960s and 1970s, with an astoundingly high number of hits compared to their number of records that busted when they were introduced into the market. Berry Gordy, the founder of Motwon, created completely new models of record production that changed the methodology of the entire record industry. These models seem to derive from the automobile industry. Berry Gordy worked in an automobile factory during his early adulthood, and applied many of the practices used there to his record industry (Landau 70). However, this model was not intended for the production of different music and creative artists. This objective, assembly line approach to a subjective art was a new one.

The process of producing a Motown record started with a production team, who would write the song, find a singer or group of singers to record it, determine the instrumentation and arrangement, and record the song. The production teams then met with Berry Gordy to determine which of these records would be distributed. This assembly line style, where everyone puts a small piece onto a product many different times, limited the individual creativity of the process. This creativity was even more deterred when Gordy discovered a formula” for producing hits. As Jon Landau author of “A Whiter Shade of Black”, states, “when the formula [for producing a hit single in “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Baby Love” by The Supremes] paid off, Motown lost no time in refining the form, stylizing it, and imposing it on all of their artists one way or another” (71). Motown was very interested in selling their product (hit records). This assembly line process is most prevalently seen in the vocalists, who usually didn’t do much more than perform the songs. Landau comments that “Motown takes these vocalists and of course tries to give them a style” (72). This obviously limits the personal expression of the individuals performing the songs.

This methodology is not a thing of the past. Motown is still influencing the record industry today. The rise of music competitions, the rise in purchases of singles instead of albums, and the creation of “Greatest Hits” albums promote the view of music as a commodity and continue the legacy of Motown.

 

Works Cited

Landau, Jon. “A Whiter Shade of Black.” The Rock History Reader. Ed. Theo Cateforis. New York: Routledge, 2007. 69-74. Print.

Is EDM Just a Fad?

With the rise of new technology has also come the rise of different genres of music. This trend has persisted over hundreds of years. However, the newest section of the music industry has taken many by surprise. Electronic Dance Music, better known as EDM started out in the basements of nightclubs, staying away from mainstream music, it is today one of the most successful and thriving music industries, raking in over 4 billion in revenue just last year. EDM music is formed primarily using the computer and electronic devices, including synthesizers, to create catchy melodies, usually for dancing and are usually performed by DJ’s at nightclubs, raves, and festivals. However, due to the immense success of EDM, it has now found itself in mainstream pop music as well, launching many DJ’s into fame, such as Skrillex, and David Guetta. Without the advent of new technologies, such as computer programs and software’s that can be used to put together electronic sounds and create this music, this entire genre of music would not exist.

(Example of famous EDM song by DJ Porter Robinson)

What is interesting about EDM though is the challenges that this industry faces. Whenever a new form of music comes about, it is always met with some form of backlash. For example, social elites were appalled when the phonograph gave people the ability to record sound, thinking that this recording would cheapen music. Now however, music recording is the backbone of the industry. Parents around the country were appalled when they saw Elvis shake his hips on national television, thinking it was going to corrupt their children and ruin their morals and values. 50 years later, Elvis is revered as one of the most famous and iconic singers of the twentieth century.

Now, EDM is facing that same backlash. EDM’s origins in the basements of nightclubs, and its reputation for being played at raves and music festivals where drugs run common, have rubbed many people the wrong way. There are many who think that this music is just a fad, and that teenagers will soon move on. There are some who want to shut it down because they believe it promotes unhealthy drug use. However, it will be interesting to see if this new genre of music will stick around and defy people’s expectations, as history has proved, or if it truly is just a fad.

Works Cited:

DeVille, Chris. “Is Festival EDM Dying, Or Is It Just Getting Interesting?” Stereogum. N.p., 02 July 2014. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

Feinstein, Danny, and Colin Ramsay. “The Rise of EDM.” Music Business Journal Berklee College of Music RSS. Berklee College of Music, 02 Oct. 2011. Web. 02 Dec. 2015.

1989: NWA Arrested in Detroit

In the year of 1989 the gangsta rap group NWA went on a tour throughout the United States for their album Straight Outta Compton. One song on the album tilted “Fuck Tha Police” had garnered a lot of attention by the United States populous and their government. Throughout the country communities that were predominantly African-American had started to report riots due to the feelings the song stirred up about the police. Eventually the riots became so bad that the group had received letters from the FBI requesting that they no longer play the song for the safety of police officers everywhere.

The song was written by NWA members, Ice Cube and MC Ren, based off their personal experiences with police brutality in Compton. The song is based around a mock trial with NWA member Dr. Dre acting as the judge. Ice Cube’s, MC Ren’s and  Eazy-E’s lyrics are a testimony against the brutality of the police force. The song ends with Dr. Dre declaring the police officer is guilty of being a “redneck, white bread, chickenshit motherfucker”.

Before the group went on their tour they promised their producer that they would not perform Fuck Tha Police on stage because of the riots. The concert in Detroit was the first time the song was played during the tour.

Before the group went on stage, the Detroit Police addressed them and told them that if they performed the song that they would be arrested. When the group went on stage the crowd repeatedly chanted “Fuck Tha Police.” Eventually the group gave into their demands and performed the song. The Detroit police immediately responded, pushing their way to the front of the crowd. One officer set off fireworks in the crowd causing the group to scatter off the stage.

The group was able to avoid the police and make it back to their hotel rooms however, once they traveled back to the lobby to meet their groupies the police greeted them instead and they were promptly arrested.

 

Hinds, Julie. “Did ‘Straight Outta Compton’ Get That Detroit Scene Right?” Detroit Free Press. Detroit Free Press, 22 Aug. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Should Madonna have Censored Her Music Video “American Life”?

 

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQpgRYmiUFw

In March 2003, Madonna filmed a music video for her song “American Life” but later decided not to release it. The video opens with the scene of models on a runway dressed up as soldiers. The video then shows Muslim children walking the runway as the soldiers bully them. In the final scene, Madonna throws a hand grenade at George W. Bush. Additionally, weapons shooting, planes firing missiles, bombs dropping, and buildings collapsing frequent the video. On March 20, 2003, United States troops entered Iraq and the Iraq War began. Shortly after on April 1, 2003, Madonna cancelled the release of her music video and instead released a video of her singing the song in front of a backdrop of flags of different countries. After the cancellation of the release of her music video, Madonna stated, “I have decided not to release my new video. It was filmed before the war started and I do not believe it is appropriate to air it at this time. Due to the volatile state of the world and out of sensitivity and respect to the armed forces, who I support and pray for, I do not want to risk offending anyone who might misinterpret the meaning of this video.” Because Madonna cancelled the release of the video on her own accord, this is an example of self-censorship. Since she owns the rights to the video, Madonna has the right to censor it. But should she? Anthony Tommasini, an author for the New York Times once said “Of course art can provide solace and comfort. Yet art can also incense and challenge us, make us squirm, make us think.” And Madonna’s video does just that. It challenges us. It makes us think. To me, it is obvious why Madonna removed her video. When watching the video, it is clear that Madonna opposes war. I highly doubt her thoughts on the war had  changed after the war started. Madonna didn’t release this video not because her thoughts on war had changed but simply because she knew it would receive backlash and she wanted to preserve her image. To me, this is a coward move. Although Madonna’s video may be upsetting to some, it does provide an interesting perspective on war, a perspective that needs to be circulated and discussed. The only way to progress as a society is to allow for the circulation of all ideas, no matter how popular or unpopular they may be. Ultimately, just as “one is free to make art, one is free not to pay attention to it.” Therefore, while I do think there is a case for censorship, the act of censoring should be done by the audience, not by the artist.

Works Cited

Scherzinger, Martin. 2007. Double Voices of Music Censorship after 9/11. In Music in the Post- 9/11 World, Jonathan Ritter and J. Martin Daughtry, editors. New York: Routledge.

Kanye West at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards vs. Censorship

 

Censorship is a matter that has posed a lot of issues for artists spanning many different genres, from folk, rock n’ roll, heavy metal, and rap. The most recent case of censorship I encountered was Kanye West’s performance of “Black Skinhead” and “All Day” at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards. Throughout his performance, his microphone would suddenly turn off, but so much of his performance was censored that over a minute of his performance was inaudible. When I first saw the performance live on TV, I thought it was just a technical issue with the microphone. But it had a huge impact on the way I perceived his performance. Comparing it to the recorded versions I listen to on his album, his performance was incredibly disappointing, but not through any fault of his own.

In this case, censorship occurred on a corporate level, since the producers of the Billboard Music Awards were the ones who chose to censor Kanye. It is difficult to determine who had the right in this situation. Since the music is technically Kanye’s property, did he have the right to perform what he wanted without interference? Or did the producers of the awards show have the right to censor his music, because he was a guest on their show?

I would argue that Kanye had the right to perform his songs without interference and censorship from the producers. He created his music with the intent to spread a message and has previously performed to thousands of people without any form of censorship. By censoring his performance, not only did the producers ruin the aesthetic effect of the performance (which is one of the main pleasurable aspects for the audience), but they also made a bold statement about the messages Kanye conveys through his music. Kanye actually apologized “to television audiences who were unable to enjoy the performance the way he envisioned” (Pitchfork). So because of this uncalled for censorship, his performance was disappointing for both the audience and for himself as a performer. The producers may have felt that his message was inappropriate because it included a lot of profanity, but as a form of artistic self-expression, he is just discussing his own views and experiences. By censoring his performance, the producers were, in a sense, questioning and even denying the realness and validity of Kanye’s own experiences.

In a world where we pride ourselves on being more and more accepting and inclusive of differences in race, gender, sexuality, etc., why are we still censoring reality? We still have a long ways to go in the fight to equality, and music is able to expose us to issues that still exist. By censoring music, we are merely covering up real problems instead of actively trying to fix them. I believe that if an artist were to censor their own music, then that would be okay, since they have control over their own work. But if an external entity, such as the government or a corporation, were to impose censors on an artist’s work without their consent, or even their knowledge, then this would be an issue.

Work Cited:

Minsker, Evan. “Kanye West Releases Statement About Billboard Music Awards Censorship.” Pitchfork. Pitchfork, 19 May 2015. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.

http://pitchfork.com/news/59631-kanye-west-releases-statement-about-billboard-music-awards-censorship/

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