With the proliferation of interactive music streaming platforms, such as Spotify or SoundCloud, emerging as primary mediums for new/independent artists to find an audience for their music, there’s been a consistently growing battle within the industry over the issue of streaming. A very recent controversy pertaining to intellectual property and copyright infringement occurred between Cash Money/Universal Music Group artist Jacquees, and 10 Summers/Interscope records artist Ella Mai.
The controversy arose when Ella Mai, a UK singer and songwriter released her single “Trip” for digital streaming on Interscope Records in August of 2018. As the song was just starting to make gains in popularity, singer American singer Jacquees decided to remix the record and publish it on his SoundCloud page (The Source).
The “remix” is a popular motif in the hip-hop music genre - where an artist will take the instrumental track, and/or melodic component of another artist’s recorded composition and create an interpolation with their own spin on it. This practice, which has been a dominant feature in the genre since the late 1980s and early 1990s, often helps to grow either the popularity of the original song, and/or the popularity of the artist creating the interpolation.
Jacquees’ remix to Ella Mai’s “Trip” quickly gained popularity over the original record - garnering over 3 million streams on SoundCloud. As stated in the paragraph above, remixes are commonplace in hip-hop music, and are often encouraged by major labels to help their artists’ song gain popularity. The controversy here, however, is that once the remix began to take off, Jacquees began promoting the song as his own - even going so far as to monetize the record on SoundCloud and on YouTube, meaning that he would receive payments for the streams.
Naturally, this sent red flags to the creators of the song and their record label, who issued a cease and desist order for SoundCloud and YouTube to remove the song from their platforms on the grounds of copyright infringement. The remix to Ella Mai’s “Trip” gained its own following, and many fans of Jacquee’s version believed the record was removed out of spite from the original artist because the new interpolation was becoming more popular than her version. DJ Mustard, the song’s producer, and the owner of Ella Mai’s label, 10 Summers, issued a statement on the issue on Twitter, saying: “When you monetize content you don’t own, you are stealing and no steals from 10 Summers.” (Twitter)
This controversy, and others like it, stems from the ease with which content (and thus intellectual property) can be accessed, manipulated, and reproduced. Many creators in the digital space, be it in music or otherwise, find great success online by appropriating content that is not theirs. Platforms such as SoundCloud and YouTube make monetization of content easy - literally with just the click of a button - and it’s quite tempting for a creator to want to capitalize off of the success of their interpolation of that content, even if it doesn’t properly belong to them. We will almost certainly continue to see more stories like this emerge as the music industry figures out how to navigate in the new reality of streaming.
Michael J. Payton is the Founder of CSUITEMUSIC.com