Considering how aggressive the Eagles, and Don Henley in particular, have been in policing the use of their music by others, it's rare to find yourself leaning toward their side in any given argument, but a recent legal spat with a Los Angeles-based producer called Baron Von Luxxury has me rethinking that stance.
You'll likely remember how earlier this summer Henley compared Frank Ocean and Okkervil Rivers' covers and reworks of his music to vandals who "go into a museum and paint a mustache on somebody else's painting.”
"Anyone who knows anything should know you cannot take a master track of a recording and write another song over the top of it," Henley said of Ocean's use of “Hotel California” on his “American Wedding.” "You just can’t do that...”
It's almost enough to make one sympathize with the South Carolina woman last year who stabbed her roommate because he wouldn't stop listening to the Eagles.
Then again, the case of Luxxury might give even the staunchest of digital rights libertarian pause. His edit of “Hotel California,” a sort of slowed-down, mechanized, creeping take on the iconic track, had racked up about 300,000 plays on Soundcloud, before Warner Music Group, co-owners of the song, had it removed recently. While large music conglomerates often look the other way for such remixes, as The Wall Street Journal writes, they are less forgiving when it seems like artists are actually making money off of unauthorized covers, which, they say, was the case here.
It's tempting to side with the little guy here, and, compared to the Eagles and Warner Music Group, almost anyone is going to come across as the little guy. But see if that feeling doesn't immediately come crashing to a halt when you read Luxxury's shit-eating, entitled reaction to the take-down order:
“The whole point is to get these into the hands of DJs all over the world who then play it to thousands of people and expose these ancient songs to new audiences in a new way,” he told the WSJ.
Or, you might say, the point is to write your own fucking song. Once you do that, try to get it into the hands of DJs all over the world, sit back, and make zeros of dollars while they get paid to entertain people with the fruits of your labor.
If you can believe it, the quote, literally one of the most obtuse and douchey I've ever read on the subject of remix culture, gets a lot worse from there:
“In lieu of a thank you—or even paying me a retroactive remixing fee—for exposing their work to a new audience, they’ve just unceremoniously cut off my generous, selfless efforts to keep them relevant.”
So not only does this guy, who, it's worth pointing out, certainly isn't alone in holding this position on the all-you-can-take buffet of contemporary culture-vulturing, think he should be able to do whatever he wants with someone else's music, he thinks they should pay him for the favor of throwing some effects over their song and slowing it down a little? The only reason anyone knows who he is in the first place is because he piggy-backed off of a high profile song. (He's also remixed a number of other well-known hits.). The sheer cognitive dissonance at work here makes me think it has to be a purposeful trolling, in which case, it's certainly worked.Baron Von Luxxury's Duran Duran remix
The Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits album, for the definitely real demographic of people who apparently exist out there that aren't familiar with it, is the second or third biggest selling album in the history of selling albums, behind only Michael Jackson's Thriller, and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Their album Hotel California is also among the top ten best selling albums. The song “Hotel California” is played on American radio once every 11 minutes, or around 131 times a day. And yet, somehow, some DJ bro is exposing it to a new audience?
Reasonable people can argue about whether or not all information and art should be free for others to remix and collage and rethink as they please, or whether or not artists' intellectual property rights need to be more strictly controlled in an era where nobody seems to want to pay for anything. I'm personally agnostic on this, and view it on a case-by-case basis. Hell, the number one album in the country right now is from a guy who made his living rewriting the lyrics to hit songs to be about food, and everyone seems to be thrilled with that. The thing that separates him, or other DJs who do legitimate remixes of hit songs, is that they usually are granted permission. It's an outdated, but simple thing we used to call common courtesy. Sometimes people might not agree to let you fuck up their perfectly good song with your special brand of genius. That means it's time to think of something else to do with your talents.
There is certainly plenty of great art made from riffing off of and altering someone else's work, but, on the other hand, there's a very real, and troubling, generation of musicians and internet content creators whose sense of entitlement in taking anything they want, simply because they want it, has gone too far. Musicians have always lifted from one another, but they at least used to have the decency to be somewhat abashed when called out for it, not act like petulant, spoiled little shits.
I don't want to put words in Don Henley's mouth here, mostly because I'm afraid he could somehow sue me for that, but I think it's safe to speak for him when I say this guy can go fuck himself. And if he wants to film it, I'd be happy to share the video here. I bet it would be some great exposure.
Luke O'Neil is on Twitter, taking your tweets and making them better - @lukeoneil47
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