In early 2004, a musician named DJ Danger Mouse released a mashup project which he called the Grey Album. Being it was a remix of the Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album, it was a very cool and fitting name. Shortly after the album was released on the Internet, music company EMI sent a cease and desist letter to DJ Danger Mouse, demanding it be removed from his site and any others offering it for download. This action caused an equal and opposite reaction, what came to be called Grey Tuesday.
Coordinated by the website Downhill Battle, on February 24, 2004, several hundred participating websites performed a mass act of electronic civil disobedience by offering the Grey Album for download for 24 hours as a means of protesting EMI’s legal threats. It was argued that sampling music is fair use under copyright law and that accommodations should be made to make the new concept of a mashup the legal equivalent of a cover of a song. As a result of the day long online event, a lot of attention was devoted to the issue and DJ Danger Mouse’s album was downloaded over 100,000 times.
Fast forward a year and a half. On Friday November 18th, 2005, a concept mashup album called American Edit was released by its creators, known by the name Dean Gray. Using Green Day’s outstanding American Idiot album as a base, Dean Gray mixes its songs together with artists ranging from Queen, to the Offspring, to Ashantis. Only 10 days later, the American Edit website was taken down by Warner Bros (Green Day’s label) after its creators were issued a cease and desist order.
Warner Bros’ actions here are idiotic. Mashups have absolutely nothing to do with piracy. The American Edit project was released for free, with no commercial gain for its creators. Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing and the EFF put it best:
Mashups are a really dumb target for the RIAA. There’s just no universe in which someone who downloads a mashup of Prince’s 1999 and the Benny Goodman orchestra performing “In the Mood” thinks, Well, now I’ve heard that, I have no need to buy the CDs those songs originated on.
So, on this coming Tuesday, December 13th, Dean Gray Tuesday will be held. For 24 hours beginning at midnight Pacific Time, American Edit will be made available for download on hundreds of participating websites as a form of online protest. This isn’t being done to encourage music piracy, but instead to increase awareness of mashups as a legitimate form of music.
I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of this album tonight, and I have to say – it’s very well done. I’ve heard a decent number of mashups over the last year or so, some good and some pretty bad, but these are easily some of the best.
If you’ve never heard a mashup before, or if you want to hear some of the best, go to americanedit.org on Tuesday and download this album from one of the participating sites to take part in the event!