During the past week or so, news of communal lyric site Rap Genius‘s pile of legal troubles with the National Music Publishers Association, has re-lit the wick that lights the fire on music, legitimacy and compensation for artists. As of this moment, the site has come out publicly with a deal that was finalized between itself and Sony/ATV long prior to last week’s sudden uproar. How things move forward with the stated intention of fostering “other licensing deals” remains to be seen but for now, the Genius has contended with their naysayers, to the applause or disappointment of onlookers/users.
Speaking of stating things, the UK based, NewStatesman, just published an article posing the idea that ‘new does not necessarily equal innovative.’ Middlesex University lecturer, Richard Osborne, the author, stresses the differences between new, now, modern and retro, relating the terms to where much of today’s music catalog falls, and whether or not we openly and or internally acknowledge these differences. The conclusion seems to be, that the industry as a whole, does not, which is why we are in the perception predicament in the first place.
“There’s certainly been much talk of newness. As a consequence, innovation and originality should also be easy to spot. Unfortunately, ‘new’ has become one of the most loosely and overused words in popular music. The term is most problematic when used to justify programming policies or the supposed altruism of the music industry. BBC Radio 1 uses the banner “in new music we trust”, and I’ve heard its DJs state that they are fans of ‘new music’, as though this were a genre. Meanwhile, record companies have used the fact that they are investing money in ‘new’ music as a means of justifying punitive recording contracts and (in a previous life) the high cost of CDs.”
What does Rap Genius’s conflict with the NMPA, and a discussion on sincere innovation, have to do with each other? It has to do with the phrase “Just because.”
(Side note: funny enough, and I swear it’s a coincidence, the word “Because” has become a focal point of discussion among linguists who are seeing it’s rising use and changing role in everyday speech.)
It also has to do with the life long quandary of the “wrong thing done for the right reasons,” though this phrase leans more toward Rap Genius’s specific situation. The thing is, just because you can do something, or just because a question is out there, or just because a product hasn’t been made to fill a very specific niche, does that serve as a sufficient;y direct and universally acceptable enough line of reasoning to blanket-justify an answer, an action or a new product to fill said situations?
Just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should.
Just because more people may become engaged in and comfortable with, the rap/hip-hop genres, as a result of visiting and contributing to Rap Genius’s archives, doesn’t eliminate the partial illegitimacy of their previous operations. (e.g. leaked albums being commented on, discussed openly, etc.)
Just because we have the ability to crank out song after song, faster and more fluidly than ever, using recognized forms, plug-ins, melodic patterns and rhyme schemes, doesn’t mean we are truly coloring outside the lines. (See my thoughts on “breaking new ground” in this previous post.)
Has the majority of our attention become too zoned in toward after-the-fact acknowledgement? If we think something (a product, service, image, motto,) has a place it can go, regardless of whether that place needs to be filled with something, we do first and react second. The reaction could come immediately, or in the case of Rap Genius, come long after the first move, when positive things like a massive injection of service supporting funding have already come along, thereby making organizations like the NMPA appear as villains; trying to take away something that has been put in a positive light.
While this model of business operation might work at present, it is not just a bit wayward in terms of moral boundaries? It’s like an “all is well that ends well” line of thought that pushes planning, or consequences to the back position.
This model’s application to music and other creative pursuits needs to go. Filling an under-recognized niches and then achieving success isn’t a bad thing unto itself (e.g. legal TV streaming via Netflix, Hulu, that helps deter reliance on illegal torrents) however, foresight toward effects on the creators or the entertainment landscape in general, seems to be left to fall overboard, all too often, in favor of simply mobilizing an idea that much faster -whether that idea is a “new” radio single or structurally complex startup premise.
“An action doesn’t have to be wrong just because it is not logical. It doesn’t have to be right just because it has its logic.”