Monday, October 26, 2015

Copyrights and Wrongs

Is music plagiarism cut and dried or are there still ‘Blurred Lines’?

Throughout the history of music there have been melodies, rhythms and lyrics that closely resemble existing compositions. So is it clear in the eyes of the law when homage, inspiration or musical parody becomes outright musical theft?




History Repeats Itself


Despite the controversy surrounding the recent high profile case of the Thicke and Williams track ‘Blurred Lines’ and it’s legal dispute with the estate of Marvin Gaye, musical plagiarism is far from a new phenomenon.

In the early 1960’s The Beach Boys were forced to relinquish the publishing rights of their song ‘Surfin’ USA’ to Chuck Berry’s publisher due to its similarity to one of Berry’s compositions. Led Zeppelin got into hot water when there second album was found to have lyrics and riffs copied from early blues artists such as Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf.

Rod Stewart didn’t feel quite so horny when his song ‘Do You Think I’m Sexy’ was found to have a number of similarities to another composition, ‘Taj Mahal’ by Brazilian composer Jorge Ben Jor.

In the 1990’s, the Oasis hit ‘Whatever’ was forced to share songwriting credits with former Bonzo Dog & Python lyricist Neil Innes for its similarity with his song ‘How Sweet to be an Idiot’.

And the Manchester brothers were in trouble a second time when The New Seekers questioned the similarity between their hit ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’ and the Oasis song ‘Shakermaker’.

Plagiarism cases have continued throughout the 21st Century. Sam Smith’s Grammy nominated hit, ‘Stay With Me’ was the subject of an out-of-court settlement with Tom Petty and ELO’s Jeff Lynne, when it was decided the melody contained too many similarities to Petty’s hit ‘I Won’t Back Down’.

And UK producer Mark Ronson was forced to add writer’s credits to various members of The Gap Band for copying one of their hits on his multi million selling worldwide hit single ‘Uptown Funk’.

The latest high profile case concerns Jay Z and producer Timberland with their long running lawsuit defending their hit Big Pimpin’ and its interpolation of the Egyptian love ballad Khosara Khosara.
With these examples and many, many more besides, surely it’s clear that there must be very well defined rules to govern whether a song is copied or not. Or are there?

What exactly does the Law have to say about musical plagiarism?

The Law and How it Stands


Well, in many cases it seems to boil down to quantity. Exactly how much of the copyrighted material has been copied? Just a little, or is it a substantial amount?

If it’s more than what is considered to be paying homage to a particular artist or song, then the alarm bells of ‘infringement’ may begin to toll. And when an entire melody or motif is undeniably similar then the laws will irrefutably consider it as a copyright infringement.

And since the ‘Blurred Lines’ case, the substantiality clause has been extended. It’s not only a similar melody or copied lyric, but also the ‘feel’ of the composition. Its very ‘soul’. Its ‘mojo’ that may also be copied.

The second thing that the law considers is the ‘likelihood’ that the artist may have plagiarised the work. For example, someone who has gone on record as being the numero uno David Bowie fanatic all their life, is more likely to be under suspicion if they release a track based on the chord structure, lyrics and melody line of ‘Heroes’. It could indeed be presumed that they have copied the track from their ‘hero’ Mr. Bowie. Any similarities will certainly not work in their favour.

Interestingly, Bowie has often described himself as a musical magpie. Citing in one interview that it’s knowing ‘what to steal and when to steal it’ that is the trick to good songwriting.

But then again his remarkable genius elevates any would-be homage into an entirely new stratosphere. Quantum Plagiarism if you like. Yes, there may be an essence of the Rolling Stones and Velvet Underground in Aladdin Sane. But could either of those artists have written such songs or created such an album?



Thou Shalt Not Steal

Plagiarism or copying music also includes the actual physical audio. Sampling has notoriously been responsible for a number of plagiarism court cases since affordable digital samplers were introduced in the 1980s.


An early example of problems arising from digital sampling was on a record by UK chillout producers, The Orb. Their 1990 release ‘A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld’ featured a big slice of the song ‘Loving You’ by Minnie Ripperton. It floated into the track as if in a dream. Panning around the stereo field, bathed in delay and reverb. A very pleasant effect that enhanced the Orb’s live DJ shows at the time. But including it on a published release was to land them in a great deal of trouble with Minnie Ripperton’s publishers and pretty soon after the release, the record was withdrawn. Only to appear later with the Ripperton version replaced by a hastily recorded sound-alike.

Another high profile case was a little known record by Rap artist Biz Markie. The track was called ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ and featured a 10 second loop from the Gilbert O’Sullivan track of the same name. This became a test case for digital sampling when it was taken to court in 1991. O’Sullivan’s publishers won the case with the judge in summing up, quoting from the Ten Commandments. ‘Thou Shalt Not Steal’.

Pretty soon after this case, publishers and record companies became aware of this new phenomenon and clauses began to appear in every new contract that was issued to bands, DJs and artists. The record companies were keen to take no responsibility for the content of the record and to ensure that the artist cleared any samples that appeared on recordings prior to their release.
But even with these clauses in place, there were still outstanding issues to resolve. Records by the likes of Snoop Dogg and Doctor Dre would simply not exist were it not for the God-like genius of legendary producer George Clinton, who is still fighting to contest royalties from a number of artists that sampled P-Funk riffs from Funkadelic & Parliament.

Making A Mockery


So what help does the Law offer to struggling composers keen to make a living from what is after all a somewhat restrictive 12 note scale?

Recent updates include a law that recognises ‘parody’.

A work that evokes an existing work while being noticeably different from it and constituting an expression of humour and mockery.

This is clearly aimed at the YouTuber generation, but it does offer a glimmer of hope that satire and parody may be recognised as a reason for plagiarism, rather than the obvious lack of originality.
However, this Law may be more help to the likes of Weird Al Yankovic or Flight of the Conchords-type parodies. Or the ancient art of musical imitation made popular in the 60’s and 70’s by artists like The Baron Knights, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and the Not The Nine O’clock News team’s musical sketches. Of little use perhaps to today’s more serious musicians, producers and songwriters who are less inclined to include humerous parody in their songwriting.

In Summing Up


Hard as it may seem, the obvious thing for songwriters to do is to never copy other artists when creating music or composing songs. But this just isn’t feasible. And as these examples prove, plagiarism is almost a necessary tool, some may say an integral part of the musical process. But it’s knowing the point where enthusiastic inspiration has spilt over into the realms of forgery. Then having the musical ability to pull back from that abyss and taking another route. Investing some pure originality into a composition. And only using other people’s work as a springboard to something new may be the key to original composition. After all, it seems that songwriting and music making owes as much to its rich, dynamic history as it does to it’s as yet unwritten future.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Focus on classical music this week

Good quality, royalty free classical music, is hard to come by. That's just a fact.


Why? Because hiring an orchestra, with studio time and engineer, is extremely costly and time consuming. It's a process that requires meticulous planning and preparation and costs "a small fortune" to get it done.

In the "stock music scene" there have been various sources of so-called royalty free classical music, of dubious origin. On some "free for all, self-uploading" websites, you can find classical music recordings that almost certainly don't actually belong to the person who uploaded them, but rather sourced from some published CD, and belonging to another company.


If "some guy" is uploading fully orchestrated recordings of classical masterpieces, you need to ask yourself if that guy really spent the time, effort and money (possibly several hundreds of thousands of dollars) on getting that music recorded, so that he could sell it for $15 at a stock media site that allows a free-for-all self-uploading of content for sale. It goes without saying, that recording is not going to be safe, copyright wise.

Here at Shockwave-Sound.com we have also been exposed to these "unsafe" recordings, likely to be copyrighted to some company who doesn't know that their recordings are being uploaded to stock music sites.

Instead, we focus on getting a smaller volume of recordings done, but to have them done from scratch, exclusively for our company. At the time of writing, we have 74 such exclusive classical recordings that we ourselves have organized and got recorded for us on a work-for-hire basis. We are adding to that regularly, so by the time you read this, we may have many more. These recordings are not for sale through any other stock music / royalty-free music website.

This week we decided to put some of these tracks together onto CD-collections. We have released 4 new Royalty-Free Classical Music albums this week, with the following track listings:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/royalty-free-music-collection/612/classical-favorites-vol-1


Classical Favorites Vol 1:
  • Bach: Prelude No 1
  • Beethoven: Für Elise
  • Beethoven: Moonlight Sonata Movement 1
  • Delibes: Sylvia Pizzicato
  • Grieg: In The Hall of the Mountain King
  • Grieg: Morning Mood from Peer Gynt
  • Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik Allegro
  • Mozart: K545 Sonata in C Major Movement 1
  • Rossini: William Tell Overture
  • Purcell: Trumpet Tune for String Quartet
https://www.shockwave-sound.com/royalty-free-music-collection/613/classical-favorites-vol-2
  • Satie: Gnossiene No 1
  • Satie: Gymnopedie No 1
  • Sousa: Semper Fidelis
  • Tchaikovsky: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker
  • Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Chinese Tea Dance
  • Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker Dance of the Mirlitons
  • Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker March
  • Händel: Sarabande
  • Purcell: Trumpet Tune
  • Schubert: Ave Maria
https://www.shockwave-sound.com/royalty-free-music-collection/614/classical-favorites-vol-3
  • Vivaldi: Four Seasons Spring RV269 Movement 1 Allegro
  • Vivaldi: Four Seasons Spring RV269 Movement 3 Allegro pastorale
  • Vivaldi: Four Seasons Winter RV297 Movement 1 Allegro non molto
  • Vivaldi: Four Seasons Winter RV297 Movement 2 Largo
  • Chopin: Minute Waltz
  • Holst: Saturn from The Planets Suite
  • Sousa: Liberty Bell
  • Sousa: The Thunderer
  • Scott Joplin: The Entertainer
  • Saint-Saens: Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals
https://www.shockwave-sound.com/royalty-free-music-collection/615/classical-favorites-vol-4
  • Strauss: The Blue Danube
  • Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake Act 1 Finale
  • Bach: Air On the G String
  • Bach: Jesu Joy of Mans Desiring
  • Bach: Wachet Auf aka Sleepers Awake BWV 140
  • Beethoven: Symphony 5 Movement 1
  • Elgar: Pomp and Circumstance March 1
  • Händel: Entrance of The Queen of Sheba
  • Händel: Hornpipe from Water Music
  • Holst: Jupiter from the Planets suite

Those were the 4 new releases we've put together this week. We already had the individual tracks in our catalog and have been acquiring them over a longer period of time, but it was only this week that we put them together into "CD-collections".

From previously, we also have these two:

https://www.shockwave-sound.com/royalty-free-music-collection/378/classical-strauss-lanner

  • Lanner Steyrische Tanze
  • Strauss An Der Schonen Blauen Donau
  • Strauss Annen Polka
  • Strauss Der Zigeunerbaron Overture
  • Strauss Die Fledermaus Overture
  • Strauss Dorfschwalben aus Osterreich
  • Strauss Gschichten aus dem Wienerwald
  • Strauss Kaiser Waltzer
  • Strauss Pizzicato Polka
  • Strauss Radetzky Marsch
  • Strauss Tritsch-Tratsch Polka
  • Strauss Unter Donner und Blitz


https://www.shockwave-sound.com/royalty-free-music-collection/571/classical-piano-favorites-vol-1 

  • Bach Prelude in C major BWV846
  • Beethoven Pathetique Sonata 2nd movement Adagio cantabile
  • Chopin Mazurka in A minor op. 17 no. 4
  • Chopin Mazurka in C sharp minor op. 63 no. 3
  • Chopin Nocturne in E flat major op. 9 no. 2
  • Chopin Nocturne no. 20 in C sharp minor op posth
  • Chopin Prelude in E minor op. 28 no. 4
  • Chopin Raindrops Prelude op. 28 no. 15
  • Liszt Consolation no. 3 in D flat major S.172
  • Mendelssohn Song Without Words in E major op. 19 no. 1
  • Mozart Piano Sonata no. 12 K332 2nd movement Adagio
  • Schubert Impromptu in G-flat major op. 90 no. 3 D899
  • Schubert Moment musicaux in F minor no. 3 op. 94 D780
  • Schumann Dreaming from Scenes from Childhood op. 15 no. 7
  • Scriabin Etude in C sharp minor op. 2 no. 1
  • Tchaikovsky June (Barcarolle) from The Seasons op. 37a no. 6
We hope you enjoy the music, safe in the knowledge that they can be licensed for use in media and in public, without fear of copyright infringement.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Spotlight on our latest releases

Hi all, I wanted to take a few minutes this Friday afternoon to present our latest three CD-collections!


Voyage is an amazing musical journey into strange worlds, somewhere between the distant past and the near future. This semi-orchestral, detailed and creative soundtrack contains 15 intriguing tracks with a sense of curiosity and amazement. These tracks can work exceptionally well for sci-fi and steampunk, as well as for things like industrial presentations, commercial projects, factories and space discovery - and much more. This is master composer Francesco Giovannangelo's third album for Shockwave-Sound and we are completely mesmerized by this cinematic music.


Lifestyle & Light Comedy, Vol. 7: is an album of subtle comedy or everyday type music. This style / sound of music is popular in much of today's reality TV programming, be it slightly amusing stories of real people going about their everyday troubles, or "fly on the wall" type shows, quiz shows and more. The music has that lighthearted feel, but also with a sense of sincerity -- a playful honesty. I can also imagine this music being highly useful in things like home improvement shows / house makeover shows, interior design and much more. Composed by John Starcluster.



Indie Sound vol. 1: We already have another series of albums called "Indie Rock", but we wanted to start a new series of music that has that Indie sound, but isn't clear-cut rock. This album features 10 fun and cheeky tracks with an indie sound reminiscent of Kings of Leon and many other indie pop / indie rock bands. The music has a slightly fun / careless / freaky sound, and can go well with Hipster type content, fun days with friends. It's all very slightly "unhinged" which gives it a really nice edge for use with quirky commercials too. Composed by Fab Claxton.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Paypal trouble today


Dear customers/visitors,

Paypal are experiencing problems with transactions today. Customers have been paying for goods and receiving payment receipt emails from Paypal, but the transactions are "lost" somewhere for several hours before we receive the money in our Paypal account or our site receives IPN signal from Paypal, which causes customers not to receive the products they have purchased from us.


We have helped the customers who contacted us about it, and for now we have disabled Paypal payment option on our Checkout page. Please pay with a credit card using either the Worldpay or 2Checkout option for now.

There are some comments under this map here: https://downdetector.com/status/paypal/map/
which seem to indicate that other people are having some Paypal problems at the moment.

We will re-enable Paypal payment when they get their issues taken care of. Thanks.

Monday afternoon update: http://www.computing.co.uk/ctg/news/2429039/paypal-global-fault-hits-every-account-monday-night
 

Friday, October 2, 2015

New version of Shockwave-Sound.com launched today

Dear friends, users, visitors of Shockwave-Sound.com.

This weekend we are launching the newly redesigned Shockwave-Sound website. We hope that you will enjoy using it. The new site features a slick, new design, more modern and perhaps more pleasing to the eye - although, of course, that is a matter of personal preference.



Shockwave-Sound.com new site 2015


More importantly, though, the new Shockwave-Sound.com has functional improvements beyond the purely visual. "Under the hood", the handling of database queries such as browsing, searching etc. in the music catalogue is better optimized and uses more cache features, which means that everything should be faster, more streamlined.

The new site, compared with the old one, features:

  • Faster browsing and page loading.
  • Faster search, much less load on the server.
  • Fully Adaptive/Flexible design that works well on screens of any size, including tablets, cellphones, etc.
  • No Flash, all HTML5 built.
  • Choose between Standard or Condensed View in all track listings (Condensed view shows less details of each track and a preview sound player for only the "Full track" version of each track).
  • More track sorting options including "Most sold forever" and "Most sold recently".
  • A simplified and easier accessible Advanced Browse functionality that lets you combine different criteria such as Moods/Emotions, Music Genres, Tempo, Instrumentation and more, to find your perfect track.
  • "Find Similar Tracks" feature which automatically pre-fills the Advanced Browse page for you, to enable you to find more tracks that match several criteria from the track you just heard.
There are many other smaller improvements, which hopefully you will find along the way as you start to use our new site. We hope you enjoy it.

A bit of history

Just for fun, we decided to dig out some pictures of older versions of Shockwave-Sound.com, going back to 2001. Actually, the site itself was started in April 2000, but we don't have any historical images of the site until February 2001, when the first picture below is from. Looking at the pictures below, you can see that we have pretty much operated with the same core design / look since 2002. That's 13 years, without a major overhaul of the look and design. I guess it was about time! Although I have to say, that the "2002 design", made for us at the time by Gert Duinen, combined with the core programming work and database connection created for us in 2005 by Richard Davey, has served us extremely well.

Shockwave-Sound.com, 2001

Shockwave-Sound.com, early 2002

Shockwave-Sound.com, 2003

Shockwave-Sound.com, 2008
Shockwave-Sound.com, 2014