In today’s technologically convergent society, we have entered into a remix culture that has coincided with the demise of originality and creativity.
Remixing is the notion of taking another’s idea and modifying it in order to create a new meaning. As stated by Andrew Whelan, the word ‘détournement’ can be useful in a study of remix culture. Détournement is the derailment of something, which is used in discussions of media and cultural interaction where meanings are subverted or undermined. This can be seen in remix as it has the ability to change the cultural, social and even political meaning of a text. This is shown through ‘parody’ videos, such as the Hitler Rants Parodies.
The emergence of remix culture has seen a shift in participation in society, from read only to a read and write culture. This has resulted in the audience moving from passive consumers to active ‘prosumers’. Lawrence Lessig states that remix “can’t help but make its argument, at least in our culture, far more effectively than could words” (Lessig, 2008, p74). In an era where everybody is in a rush, remixing holds a significant amount of power in that it conveys its intended meaning to a wide range of viewers in a concise form.
I agree with Kirby Ferguson in saying that everything is a remix and that all original material builds from previously existing material. Take Four Chords – Axis of Awesome for example. This video reveals that a significant amount of modern day pop songs are fundamentally based around four chords, much like the amen break in today’s remix culture.
In his collection of videos, Whelan refers to artists that produce music for net labels and give it away for nothing. He says, “You can’t buy anything, you can’t give these people money. They wont even sell you a t-shirt. It’s a weird model of cultural production where money is completely evacuated out of it.” I find this statement quite controversial in that a lot of music that is made from stolen samples may not provide initial financial gain, but it provides the artist with other benefits, such as increased circulation. Take Aussie Hip-Hop artist, 360 for example. In between his little known debut album ‘What You See Is What You Get’ and his multi award-winning album ‘Falling & Flying‘, he released three (one, two and three) mix tapes featuring remixes from the likes of Kanye West, Kings of Leon and even Lisa Mitchell. Although he did not receive a profit from these mix tapes, they provided the foundations for his successful follow up album.
Although the remix culture has seen a dramatic decrease in the amount of new music being produced, I believe that it has been beneficial to the industry as it allows artists such as 360 to gain greater recognition and audience engagement.
The derivative act of remixing encourages progress and wealth creation of culture as it allows mixing of copyright holders content. It is often a remix work of genius that defines and shapes generations, as they are a collaboration of ideas from cultures and pieces of creative works. In this sense, the remix culture has seen the death of creativity, however, it has allowed a new form of creativity to emerge and develop.