It’s funny that we live in an age where I have to define what “Free” means. But that’s real. People don’t really know how to receive things for free anymore. It needs to be free with a disclaimer, a release, a license or a clause with renunciations of all kinds. Not only that, people assume that there’s an angle with free things. Is it free because it’s part of a contest? Free is possibly the least free thing in the world. It’s tangled up in confusion.
A few weeks ago, I released stems from my song “Ain’t Gotta Lie”. (Stems are the different parts of the song: vocals, drums, bass etc. A person can take these parts and use them in their own music.) For free. Free as in free puppies. Pick them up, take care of them, enjoy them. It’s yours now.
Billboard then published an Op-Ed piece by Steve Martocci which raised some good questions. Free in what way? Read the article here, but essentially he posed the question: are they free as in “no cost” but with restrictions, or are the stems really out there to be taken? Am I going to come after people later on and say that’s mine? WHAT DID FREE MEAN?
The short simple answer is: Free means free as a bird. Fly, little stems, be free. Go make beautiful music without me. Free is really free.
What it comes down to for me is the question: what makes a song? That’s a complicated beast. You probably won’t find the same answer from any two musicians. My answer is: a song is made of lyric and melody. Everything else is a variable. Those are its identity, its soul, its name. So if a person takes my melody and deCarl’s voice then just adds a new beat or baseline, that’s all well and good but that song does not belong to them alone. It’s a remix. And they need to credit that. However, if they take a drum loop, or a vocal snippet, rearranged with their own ideas and add the rest, that’s an original piece of work. This is how it is now. I hear records all the time that sample me…a kick drum here or a baseline there, I’m not mad. Congratulations on making music!
I trust that with these stems out there, people are not going to simply mimic my version of “Ain’t Gotta Lie”. They can make siblings but not clones. Truthfully, what are they going to do with a clone? What’s the point? Who is going to even give them any shine on that? BUT. What if they have the stems, then come up with a great idea?
A crowd-sourced mash up that bangs happens. That’s what.
There’s a guy named Ted Keyes who follows me on Twitter. I’ve never met him, never spoken to him. But Ted picked up the “Ain’t Gotta Lie” stems, and came up with a solid idea on how to use them. He put it together, then asked me over Twitter to check it out. I liked his idea, but it wasn’t entirely flushed out. The track he had laid the vocal over had some other bits in it, they conflicted. The other track he was using was by Hard Rock Sofa called “Get Down”. One of the perks of being me is that I can go ahead and reach out to Hard Rock Sofa and ask them for the instrumental. Which is what I did, and they said yes.
Once I had that, I could mess with the vocal/pitch to make it fit in perfectly. I spent some time getting it right, and now? It’s here. I’m going to use this mashup in shows, I’m confident that people will dig it. The gorgeous thing here is that all of this came from releasing the stems. For free. Ted had an idea and I was able to help him execute it. Ted gets credit in this new version.
Here it is, the crux of what people have a tough time understanding. Free the music. Yup, the cash will follow but more importantly: the creativity will flow.
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