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on Re-scoring music


This article on Pitchfork describes a pretty ugly problem in the music industry: paying for soundalike music. More specifically paying for copycat versions of already established tracks.

I remember being asked for a copycat version of a track, back in 2011 or so, and I flatly refused. Then on my audio-post site I put "I do not re-score music, whatever the fee", but I'd like to explain my reasoning.

The brief:

  • Soundalikes aren't creative works, e.g. a remix or an interpretation
  • On a soundalike the aim is to work around mechanical copyright.

The client

  • So the client won't respect the original artist enough to pursue licensing their work.
  • Or they will hit e.g. artist or publisher constraints which, outside of budget, should signal the work is not available to use, which means it should not be used anyway.
  • Or the available budget would be far lower than for the license to the original work, which makes the project part of the big race to the bottom, which is an industry-wide issue.
  • Or the project producer chose not to pursue a license since they expected they could get a soundalike cheaper, quicker, or easier.
  • Or an intermediate agent suggested this to them and they agreed.

The art

  • If the soundalike composer said yes, they would be agreeing to become part of the problem
  • The problem is that the art form stays still, an old bunch of ideas is reused, increasing the noise, but not compensating the original artist(s) for their work
  • Then budgets for post-production are brought down ever so slightly on the whole
  • All for non-original music that got validated in the process.

After a while, it becomes the norm.

Seems to be the norm right now.

If you're ever near a production budget, please do push for original music. It takes longer. It costs. It's not "optimal" and it's harder to get done. But it happens to be the right thing to do. Down the line it serves the group, not the individual.

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