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To Remix, or Not To Remix?



It was 2005, and while reading one of the various music magazines I had piled in a corner, I came across a promotional interview with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails.  As a promotional gimmick for his then new release, "With Teeth", on Interscope Records, he invited any and all to remix his new single, "The Hand That Feeds".  Reznor gave an url where a person could find the individually separated tracks for download along with the track's BPM.

What compelled me to go to Reznor's site and download the track elements was how convenient Reznor had made it for people to remix his track.  Out of boredom, I downloaded the tracks one night and threw the elements into Garageband to do a quick House remix.  I just did it for fun.  If I were doing a serious remix, I doubt I would've used Garageband.  After remixing the track, I acquired the video and chopped it in video editing software to match my audio remix and uploaded it to YouTube.

My remix was quickly done and simple.  After a few weeks, DJs from other cities starting e-mailing me and asking me to send them the track.  Since it was illegal for me to sell the track, I gave it away to whomever asked for it and settled for being flattered that DJs were playing my track on the East and West Coasts. 

Soon after sending it to a few DJs, the video remix I did started to get traction on YouTube.  I thought, "How fun for something I just threw together while downing a six-pack of beer one night".  Apparently the video became too popular and the next thing I know I'm getting a cease and desist e-mail from Interscope Records threatening to sue me if I didn't take my remix video down from YouTube.  I was disgusted beyond belief. 

"Are they nuts?", I thought.  So…let me get this straight…your artist does and interview with a national publication telling people to download and remix his track and then the label starts chasing people down and threatening lawsuits for the remixes?  Crazy.  So I'm helping you promote your product, for free, and now you want to sue me?  I don't know how much money they thought they were going to get from me, a multimedia artist that made a bulk of his income from grants that year, but they for sure lost a Nine Inch Nails fan.  I was never really that into NIN anyway, and this experience made me anti-NIN with the click of an e-mail. 

That was the first time I received a cease and desist e-mail from a record label, but unfortunately not the last.  Anytime that I did a halfway decent remix of something current, a label would send a nasty e-mail.  This lead to me just playing self-made remixes at club gigs, which was cool, but YouTube was a great gauge of how good or bad the remix was.  To remix or not to remix? That is the question.  Remixing is a cool way to do a track with a major artist that you may possibly never get to work with in real life and a great way to practice your production chops.  I would say do it, but be careful where you put it.

Later and don't be a hater.

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