We live in the age of the mash-up – I’m eating a Snickers bolognese with jam on top as I write this, and very nice it is too. And nowhere is that more applicable than in the online video world, where thousands of YouTubers are splicing real songs and music videos with their own footage.
The record labels’ first reaction wasn’t that positive. More evidence of those pesky internet users violating copyright, etc etc. But thankfully they’ve since come round to the idea, realising that these sorts of video mash-ups are great promotion for their artists that doesn’t cost them a penny.
Two news stories today show how much things have changed. First, EMI has signed a distribution deal with YouTube which specifically mentions mash-ups, and secondly, US firm Gotuit has launched a site where fans can create their own bootleg videos to songs by Fergie. The singer, obviously. Not the duchess.
EMI is actually the fourth and last major label to sign a deal with YouTube to carry videos by its artists – including the likes of Coldplay, David Bowie and Norah Jones. It means you’ll be able to watch the videos for free, with YouTube splitting advertising revenue with EMI to make sure the artists get paid.
Viacom may still be sueing YouTube for a billion dollars, but it seems the record labels are happy to work with Google’s video-sharing site. But it’s the mash-up angle that’s intriguing. EMI says it’s still figuring out the business model behind letting users play with its clips, and it remains to be seen what EMI would do if someone created a mash-up using their clips that was negative towards the artist.
Gotuit’s Fergie Video Remix site is fun, too. You basically choose your own scenes from the singer’s videos, arrange them in whatever order you like, and then play them over any of her songs. Whatever you think of Fergie, this kind of stuff will appeal hugely to fans, and could be used for any number of bands and singers.
The key will be how open it is, though. If I create a mash-up on an official artist site, can I then embed it in my social networking profile or blog to show people my mad web skillz? If not, they’ll be missing a trick.
Either way, the two developments show that the music industry has at least grasped the fact that video mash-ups won’t kill their stars: they’ll just make them stronger. Even Fergie.