Brazilians’ Spin: Remix Music Biz

Paulo Rebêlo
Wired News
July, 2002

In the eyes of many musicians and artists in Brazil, popular music as a form of pleasure and art ended in the Western world long ago.

The mixing of music with commerce isn’t a new concept, but the introduction of file-sharing on the Web has turned attention to the problems generated by this marriage in an unprecedented way.

Now, a group of musicians, software engineers, DJs, professors, journalists and computer geeks — who have named their cause Re:combo — have decided to “call for noise” against the current rules of copyright established by the music industry.

Re:combo (think of recombining the music) is based on two ideas: sharing the work of making music for free, and inviting people from all over the world to create something different.

Re:combo members first create music and then share it freely over their website using the MP3 format. “People are not only invited to download the files but to modify them, creating different samples, remixes and stuff,” said Miguel Pedrosa, singer and history professor. “That is, creating new music experiences with different styles and sounds.”

Members donate time, ideas and creativity in a collaborative, Internet-based work environment that resembles the peer-to-peer concept of file-sharing. The group is being developed in Brazilian cities such as Recife, Caruaru, João Pessoa, Salvador, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Additionally, Re:combo radio enables members to perform for the public live, complete with a set of electronic music, images, videos and sounds.

A few weeks before each performance, Re:combo members sponsor a “Call for Noise.” Using Web discussion lists and forums, members invite people to send in their own sounds and images to be sampled and presented to the public during the next performance.

Because each radio performance is adapted to public needs, following specific objectives, each presentation serves as a kind of unpublished experience. According to the members, Re:combo has been receiving lots of material, especially from Romania and other Eastern European countries.

“We investigate … the copyright policies because we believe they’re all wrong,” said h.d. mabuse, designer and one of Re:combo’s founders. “Famous artists make a living because of their public presentations and paid TV appearances, not by selling discs. The labels take almost everything, leaving only a ridiculous tiny percentage for the artist, who doesn’t even own the phonogram and needs to be attached to a series of contract restraints. And we are not the only ones thinking this way.”

With World Cup fever still rampant in Brazil, two of the top downloads are remixes of a classic soccer song well known by Brazilians. The remixes are called “Boasting Delirium” and include “Version 1” and “Version 2.” The newest songs are available on the Re:combo website.

“When we started this, it was more like a project for music and against copyright restraints — we think that the artist should be the owner and the decision maker about what he’d like to do with his intellectual production, not the labels or media companies,” says Haidée Lima, photographer and designer. “But actually, Re:combo has become more like a solid initiative related to different kinds of content, including Web art, digital video and software.”

Mabuse added: “We believe in the possibility of artists creating music, art, and films in a collaborative way, open and free — making money from their work, of course, but without the crazy contract attachments we see today.”

Mabuse also said that copyright is a relatively recent invention, created to protect the editor, not the author. Even in the publishing arena, it is the editor who owns the right to copy, not the author of the book. In the music industry, the songs are owned by the label, not by the artist.

“The industry rules are upside down. However, there are plenty of artists out there who cooperate and even pretend ignorance with the current situation,” Lima said. “There will always be those who want to sleep and wake up as millionaires, with zillions of fans around the world idolizing them. They want to be the next Madonna and Michael Jackson. For how long? Three, six months, until the next one comes around?

“If the situation remains as of nowadays,” added Lima, “the labels will fall apart. And so will the artists very attached to them.”