The Mouse is Mightier than "The Man"
by Charlie Tims
Using an arsenal of technical jiggery pokery and raiding a superstore of intellectual property, Danger Mouse's "The Grey Album" takes the Beatles "White Album" and Jay-Z's "The Black Album" and cuts them together to form the bootleg to end all bootlegs. For those of you not familiar with any of the above this is the musical equivalent of boiling up mustard and strawberry ice cream to make turkey roast.
Unsurprisingly, as soon as EMI got wind of this they served a "cease and desist" order on Danger Mouse's activities; cue "Grey Tuesday" http://www.greytuesday.org/ . Taking the lead from www.downhillbattle.org, one month ago yesterday, thousands of sites hosted the Grey Album prompting an orgy of international downloading that allegedly would have taken Danger Mouse's album to the top of the US and UK album charts.
You can read more about the story of the Grey album here.
I realise there�s nothing new here, but it seems a spellbindingly good example of the potential the web still has for bringing innovation from the fringes and planting it in the centre mainstream, but also how it still holds the ability to fast-track creativity around anything that stands in its way. The legacy of grey Tuesday is http://www.bannedmusic.org/ - a site dedicated to the distribution of any music threatened with �censorship�, so presumably we can expect more of the same.
Whilst the Grey Album bridges musical genres previously uncharted, it highlights a new watershed in the changing dynamics of the music industry. Whilst net assisted file sharing initially only concerned intellectual property theft on the part of the consumer (napster, kazaa etc), now it has been committed in consort with the producer too. Although the music industry is finding ways of accommodating the former in legal pay downloads it will be fascinating to see how it handles the later.
Whilst previously downloaders were simply avoiding paying for something they would have otherwise had to have paid for in the shops, they now seem to be downloading something they couldn�t pay for anywhere; even if they wanted to (I should have pointed out earlier that nobody has directly profited from the grey album).
The question is less about the (dubious) right to free music as such, or even the right to download music, but seems to be more about the (more credible) right to produce and access the most innovative creative output. In the eyes of the new music consumer the record industry has been demonised not just for the inflated prices of its shop-floor cds, but now for suppressing free speech and ultimately the reason that facilitated its existence in the first place.