Free The Grey Album! Today is Grey Tuesday!!
Danger Mouse remixed Jay-Z’s Black Album and the Beatle’s White Album, called it the Grey Album, and released a mere 3,000 copies. EMI is demanding the remix be killed, They don’t want royalties, they just want it dead. Meanwhile, it is important to note that Jay-Z’s label has made no such protestations and indeed, quite the contrary, encourages remixes like these.
So, faced with this grumpy dinosaur called EMI, artists are retaliating.
Tuesday, February 24 will be a day of coordinated civil disobedience: websites will post Danger Mouse’s Grey Album on their site for 24 hours in protest of EMI’s attempts to censor this work.
DJ Danger Mouse created a remix of Jay-Z’s the Black Album and the Beatles White Album, and called it the Grey Album. Jay-Z’s record label, Roc-A-Fella, released an a capella version of his Black Album specifically to encourage remixes like this one.
But despite praise from music fans and major media outlets like Rolling Stone (“an ingenious hip-hop record that sounds oddly ahead of its time”) and the Boston Globe (which called it the “most creatively captivating” album of the year), EMI has sent cease and desist letters demanding that stores destroy their copies of the album and websites remove them from their site. EMI claims copyright control of the Beatles 1968 White Album.
Illegal Art points out:
“EMI isn’t looking for compensation, they’re trying to ban a work of art,” said Downhill Battle’s Rebecca Laurie.
“Special interests, including the major labels, have turned copyright law into a weapon,” said Downhill Battle co-founder Holmes Wilson. “If Danger Mouse had requested permission and offered to pay royalties, EMI still would have said no and the public would never have been able to enjoy this critically acclaimed work. Artists are being forced to break the law to innovate.”
I’m reminded of a hip hop artist some years back responding to a James Brown complaint that his records were being sampled, saying Hey, when James Brown’s career was nosediving, we were the ones who kept him in the spotlight. EMI might consider the Grey Album could easily introduce whole new generations to the Beatles White Album.
What’s happening now in the music business is a phase shift. The old ways are vanishing, new paradigms are emerging. Smart labels that get it, like Jay-Z’s, will survive and prosper. Will EMI? I doubt it.