Bootlegs and the Remixing of Creativity

Salon.com posts another entry demonstrating that technology is changing the way we conceive creativity. In ‘Bootleg culture’ Pete Rojas describes the growing phenomenon of ‘bootlegs’ or ‘mash-ups’, new songs that are created through the juxtaposition of two or more old songs. Such as “Soulwax’s bootleg of Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious” mixed with Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” Freelance Hellraiser’s mix of Christina Aguilera singing over the Strokes, and Kurtis Rush’s pairing of Missy Elliott rapping over George Michael’s “Faith.”

Siva Vaidhyanthan sums up the changes “It’s about demolishing the myth that there has to be a special class of creators, and flattening out the creative curve so we can all contribute to our creative environment.”

Technology makes the production, distribution, and creation of new artifacts increasingly easy. The problem we face now is who will control the results and the raw material of creativity. Copyright owners are fearful that they will lose their compensation for creating the new works that feed the mash-ups. Those who make the remixes want control over what they have purchased and the freedom to manipulate and talk-back to the world as they see fit.

Pete Rojas concludes:

Technology has not only expanded who can create; in blurring the distinction between consumers and producers, these new digital tools are also challenging the very ideas of creativity and authorship. They are forcing us to recognize modes of cultural production that often make it impossible to answer such once simple questions as, Who wrote this song? The cultural landscape that emerges will be a plural space of creation in which it may even become pointless to designate who created exactly what, since everyone will be stealing from and remixing everyone else. The results might be confusing, but it’ll probably be a lot more fun and worth listening to than a world where only those with the financial resources to pay licensing fees (e.g., P. Diddy) get to make songs with sampling.