Where would we be without the Internet and computers today? The birth of the Internet brought about vast changes in productivity and in the way we communicate. What many seem to overlook, though, is the impact that the Internet has had on creative development over the last decade. The last decade has been one that has been characterized by a boom in creativity, one that fosters the creation of new media and the sharing of that media.
Music is one of the creative outlets that have been changed drastically by the Internet. With the ability to share music digitally, a new remix culture emerged where amateurs, not only professionals, have the ability to make changes to a popular song and have their music heard.
The Remix Culture
A remix is a different version of an original song, often changed with different vocals, pitch, tempo, or any other audio elements in an alternate master recording. Although remixes have been around since the beginning of recorded music in the 1940’s and have continually adapted to each genre of music that subsequently followed, the remix culture that exists now is immensely different.
The Internet fosters a remix culture from which people are participating in the creation of remixes for creative growth. Lawrence Lessig, the founder of Creative Commons and famous proponent for less restrictive copyright laws, describes his theory of the remix culture as a read-write culture. At his famous 2007 Ted Talk, he described this as “a culture where people participate in the creation and the re-creation of their culture.” He argued that it is digital technology that allowed for this type of culture to flourish where the consumer is also the producer. Lessig contrasts this theory to the one of a read-only culture, “in which creativity [is] consumed, but the consumer is not a creator. A culture that is top-down, owned, where the vocal cords of the millions have been lost,” for which some feared society would become. Lessig asserts that the Internet has allowed for the revival of this romanticized read-write culture, celebrating amateurs and user-generated content for the benefit of society.
Unknown artists are emerging online by remixing or covering the original songs from well-known artists on the music scene. YouTube has been a housing ground for amateur artists to put their own renditions of songs out on the Internet for the world to see their talents. It’s become so increasingly popular that some artists have emerged as YouTubers solely for covering or remixing the songs of other artists.
YouTube: The Mecca of Remix Culture
Hundreds, even thousands of people use YouTube as their platform to share their musical talents. One of the easiest ways for people to gain a following on the site is by changing popular songs and recreating them in their own version. When people go to search for the song they can’t stop listening to on the radio, they’ll see dozens of other videos of the same song covered by amateurs. User-generated content is celebrated and praised on the site where many support these amateur artists. Some have even gone on to form their own successful careers.
A prime example of someone who has made a career out of the existing remix culture is Kurt Hugo Schneider. Schneider is a musician, singer, songwriter, video editor, and music producer in the YouTube community. He began producing videos of his friend Sam Tsui singing covers of popular songs and remixed medleys in the early days of YouTube. His videos began receiving a lot of media attention with the release of the medley of Michael Jackson’s songs in 2009, even appearing on popular shows like The Ellen DeGeneres show. In this video, Tsui appears to sing all vocal parts of the songs a cappella with the help of video editing. The video currently boasts over 31 million views and is the third most popular video on his channel.
One of the most vital aspects for Schneider’s unduly success is collaboration, which plays into the idea of the remix culture. Most of his videos do not only feature his music, but also the work of other cover artists on YouTube. His videos have featured a variety of these artists including his brother, Max Schneider, and others like Alex Goot and Megan Nicole. In this collaboration effort, both artists then benefit from the video, creating more buzz surrounding them. Often, Schneider’s video he creates will appear on his own channel as well as on the channel of the person or multiple people he collaborates with. This then doubles the amount of exposure for both artists and the ability for more people to discover their talents.
The collaboration efforts that Schneider and others take part in, reflects the importance of the remix culture and the effect it can have on other’s lives. Relatively unknown amateur artists have the opportunity to engage in the online world and promote themselves to have their voices heard. This sharing of different music is what many people are drawn to on the site.
A New Rise to Fame
With over 4 million channel subscribers and 800 million total video views, Kurt Hugo Schneider’s rapidly increasing popularity has lead to other opportunities and projects. Schneider has become such a well known name and music producer on YouTube that in 2013, Coca Cola asked to team up to create music videos for a campaign called “The Sound of AHH.” These videos for Calvin Harris’ “Feel So Close” and Of Monsters and Men’s “Little Talks” appeared edited as commercials featuring the Coke product. This sponsorship from a brand as large as Coca Cola is just a telling for the appreciation people have for remix and cover song culture. Companies are starting to tap into this pool of people to find new ways of marketing to the public that enjoys this remix culture.
Kurt Hugo Schneider is not the only one who has built his career from YouTube music covers. This remix culture is so pervasive and popular that it’s not unlikely for people to have some kind of connection to an artist of this sort.
Fordham’s own, Chrissy Costanza takes part in the remix culture in order to promote her own career and her band, Against the Current. Though the band creates original music, they also create their own versions other popular songs that have garnered hundreds of thousands, to even millions of views. She’s even collaborated multiple times with Kurt Hugo Schneider himself to help promote her and the band. From the covers, the band has gained thousands of subscribers, which has created a platform for them to market their own original music. Against the Current is planning on releasing a new EP and heading on a headlining tour in May 2014.
Aside from just promoting music, her video popularity and well-known presence in the YouTube community have also led to sponsorships from different companies. Against the Current’s very first original music video was sponsored by the KIA Soul. The car is highlighted throughout most of the video as if it were a commercial. Companies are using these YouTubers to market their products and sell them to audiences in a new way, again which shows the prominence of this interest in user-generated content. It’s evident not only that None of this would have been possible, or would have been extremely more different to promote the band itself without the use of YouTube and society’s interest in cover music.
The remix culture is so pervasive in society and much of the Internet’s content is user-generated. The success that some individuals have attained from promoting their own work by remixing that of others is truly amazing. It teaches us that society might be shying away from professional work and favoring the work of hard working people just trying to achieve their dream.