THRU YOU TOO
October 1, 2014 10:44 AM   Subscribe

Thru You Too has been released. Kutiman's followup to his landmark video album Thru You, Thru You Too is made up entirely of sampled musicians from YouTube, none of whom with any prior knowledge of the project. Previously and previously.
posted by OverlappingElvis (35 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Good stuff! Interesting to pair this up with that recent post on Lena Dunham. I know that some stuff got removed from the original Thru You when the musicians protested, & I imagine that that holds true for this one too.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:53 AM on October 1, 2014


I'm always impressed by these mashup things but they also always give me this uneasy feeling that there's really only one big song in the world that everything is just a more or less radical variation on.
posted by yoink at 11:05 AM on October 1, 2014


How hard would it be, really, to clear those samples and videos from Joe Schmo on YouTube ahead of time, though? (Not hard, mostly.) It really is willful content theft--even if you object to your content having been used and he removes it from the album, guess what? It's already been re-distributed a thousand times, tough titties, fuck you, teenage girl singing in her bedroom.

I would be shocked if even ten percent of the owners of the videos sampled would have refused to give the guy carte blanche to remix without compensation. It's just such a shitty move to not even ask.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:08 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Do we know for a fact that Kutiman didn't clear it with the participants? The "about" page says that none of the participants "knew" they were participating (the point being "I didn't ask people to produce these pre-planned musical segments"). It doesn't seem to say one way or the other whether or not they were subsequently asked to approve of the project.
posted by yoink at 11:12 AM on October 1, 2014


Yeah, to be fair, my reading of that is that they weren't informed or cleared. If that's not the case, then sure, dude and I are cool.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:16 AM on October 1, 2014


Two things:

1) How would one actually go about building these songs out of their constituent parts, if every single constituent part needed to go through a clearing process before they were included in the composition? I'm actually curious about the creative process here, and I wouldn't be surprised if he experiments with hundreds of different clips and ultimately discards a lot of them on the cutting room floor during the making of any one track. And during the process, he might find a clip that serves as a groundwork and inspiration for the rest of the track, and keep going from there. I would guess it would kill a certain part of the flow of this project if he was hampered by the bureaucracy of clearance. And doing a bulk clearance after may end with all the greatness of a track excised. It may be an important process, but it appears to be one that makes things difficult and that's worth noting. But I don't actually know much about Thru You and how it's made.

2) Quite a few of us believe that this is a great example of transformative work that is more than OK. Not many people find Girl Talk controversial, for example, including the artists that are appropriated and the labels of those artists. The law may disagree but only because the law has been shaped into what it is by corporate forces that push hard on strict copyright protection, often at the expense of creators.
posted by naju at 11:18 AM on October 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Not many people find Girl Talk controversial, for example, including the artists that are appropriated and the labels of those artists

To be completely fair, I suspect the labels (who probably own the masters, and have the most to lose here) won't sue because the risk of losing, and having mashups be declared truly transformative and therefore fair use, is so enormous. It would kill whatever income is derived from samples actually cleared by mainstream artists (probably substantial).

The value of the samples he's using here is effectively zero--if nothing else, there's endless fungible content on YouTube, and if you're willing to manipulate it sufficiently, if one sample won't clear, you can find one that will work and will clear. To expect him to actually pay for them for a project that probably wouldn't earn out is, I'll concede, pretty silly. But I'd feel better about it if they were actually cleared.

(And yeah, these are neat tracks.)
posted by uncleozzy at 11:36 AM on October 1, 2014


This is amazing, as usual. Incredible. Pure art of the highest order. If you think this is theft, stop playing music or listening to it now and forever thank you.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:43 AM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


As a creator, I would be put off if I was used in a project like this without prior consent. It is cool, yes, but what do I know about Kutiman? Does he make money off of this through a YouTube ad deal? I notice that the song credits are just links to the videos, not an actual list of names (or even YouTube handles). Maybe Kutiman has politics with which I disagree vehemently and I don't want my image or voice or music associated with him.

"It is difficult" is not an excuse. Here, for example, is the original version of "This Is How I Feel" by Kymrence Young. She wrote the melody and the lyrics. She deserves to have her name right there on the front page when that Kutiman song plays.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:45 AM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


More info here. A noteworthy quote, for those of you involved the previous Lena Dunham book tour thread:

"[Kutiman manager Boaz Murah] added that both he and Kutiman, who declined to be interviewed, hope to gain exposure for the artists sampled in the videos."
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:58 AM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


So sad the "theft!" and "non-consensual!" reactions are now part of typical primary feedback, even to something as artful as this. It's like we've been lawyered out of the thrill of music, first of all, and out of the wonderment at the super-considerate, very-aware ethos that is behind this project, specifically. It takes so little, nowadays, to check that any off-the-bat doubts about this are completely unfounded - just ask Deryn Cullen....
posted by progosk at 12:06 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I didn't know anything about Deryn Cullen, but this is her Facebook update I found on googling:
___

Since I made my objections to Kutiman's Youtube video, 'Give it Up' public here on Facebook and in a blog post, I think it's only right that I post an update. Kutiman got in touch with me yesterday, and addressed my concerns in detail with grace and understanding.

Firstly, the 'album' to be released on 1 October is not an album at all in the traditional sense. It is an upload to Youtube and a share of the upload on his own site. There is no revenue share on Youtube, and no advertising on his own site. There is no means of *officially* downloading it for free or otherwise (that won't stop people from downloading it via 'mp3 search engines', but that is an unrelated issue).

Secondly, the descriptions of the video on numerous news and viral sites referring to the included artists as amateurs, while regrettable and inaccurate, are out of Kutiman's hands, and are down to the bloggers, journalists and posters on the sites.

Last, but by no means least, the issue of permission for use of clips. Kutiman's ethos is to find videos that he likes enough to use in his mash-ups, but don't have a lot of hits. The idea is to give the artists exposure, and for them to be pleasantly surprised when they see a sudden upward spike in their views and discover that they've been included in a viral video. It's a nice idea, but this is where I differ. My view is that it is dangerous to assume that every selected person wants to have their material used in that context, and that given the misleading information surrounding the video (e.g. 'album release', 'amateurs', etc), not everyone would be as thrilled with their 5 minutes of Youtube fame as Kutiman might have hoped. Having trawled through a lot of the (mostly semi-literate) comments on the video and responses on the blogs and posts about the video, it is clear that I'm not the only one who holds this view. Kutiman took my view to heart and has agreed to review his selection process on future videos.

The outcome is that I have retracted my copyright complaint. I have a much better understanding of Kutiman's ethos behind his mash-up videos, which are done purely as a labour of love in his spare time when he isn't earning his living as a musician and producer. They are done in the spirit of mass collaboration with no commercial intentions, and every intention of providing more exposure for the artists involved. My initial reaction was arguably an emotional overreaction, but I reacted based on the information to hand, and Kutiman both understood and respected my point of view as well as Dan's. If I hadn't reacted at all, my initial anger would have simmered down to a niggling irritation and no dialogue with the creator of the project.

And they all lived happily ever after.
posted by naju at 12:13 PM on October 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


Also relevant from the "more info here" link:
In the email, Kutiman explained that the project was totally non-commercial.

“We don’t make any money out of it,” Boaz Murad, Kutiman’s manager, said. “We don’t sell it – we don’t even allow advertisements on Youtube.”

any off-the-bat doubts about this are completely unfounded


Well, no. The "more info here" link makes it clear that while he contacts the individuals involved to tell them he's using their material, he does not seek their permission. I think this is stuff that falls into a gray area regarding "transformative use," but it's clear that it wouldn't be inherently unreasonable for someone to say "I don't want my video and my music to be used in this way." I think there's reasonable grounds for both sides in such a discussion. If you made a video of a song that you had written, and it was then used so that you were clearly identifiable in the video, but the music was transformed in a way which was radically counter to your own aesthetic ideals, do you think you should have no right to object?
posted by yoink at 12:17 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


The artfulness of the project is besides the point. On the plus side, he doesn't use ads to generate profit, and he does link to all of the source videos which are now seeing a large jump in views. The fact is, though, that he is running with the "it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission" ethos which is, at its core, a problematic bit of Machiavellian philosophy.

This has nothing to do with lawyers and labels and everything to do with just having some respect for your fellow artists before co-opting their material and slicing it up for your own self-promotion purposes (which this is - self-promotion - despite any claims the the contrary.)

The whole "if you object to his methods then you just have a bad attitude because THIS IS ART" POV makes my teeth itch.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:23 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you made a video of a song that you had written, and it was then used so that you were clearly identifiable in the video, but the music was transformed in a way which was radically counter to your own aesthetic ideals, do you think you should have no right to object?

Correct, you should have no right to object. This video is, I suspect, counter to Cameron's ideals. Lyrics in a Weird Al polka song are probably being used to a very different aesthetic end than their creator intended. The Enoch Light Singers probably did not intend to create a foundational riff for Frontier Psychiatrist. If everyone who created anything got to veto all potential reuses and references to their work, no one would have ever created anything. Further reference.

It doesn't matter whether or not it's 'art', that's just a value judgement. There's no question it's transformative. No one's taking any money off anyone's plate and credit is given where credit is due. I really don't see the harm.
posted by echo target at 12:47 PM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't think that this type of project would be possible if he had to get permission.

First, he'd have to send the youtuber a note requesting permission. Then, he'd have to wait wait wait for that permission to come back. (And by then, his inspiration might have moved on).

Then, once it did come back, there's the question of "is this a legal contract or just a social agreement?" If it's a legal contract, obviously it would be a ton of work. But if it's just a social agreement, there's nothing legally binding the original content creator to not change their minds. And what if they do? If they change their minds after he makes the video, I think that the fact that he first asked their permission implies a legal obligation on his part to only use their content if that permission was granted.

In conclusion, I simply don't think that the process of asking permission would have enabled him to actually make the music he made.
posted by rebent at 12:48 PM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


The whole project is statedly about the musicians (it's thru THEM that it exists at all), with Kutiman himself almost excessively self-effacing, and fastidiously attributive to all the source material. The fact that he does this in a way that actually engages the listener/viewer - for example by linking directly to the musicians' work instead of just writing their name, by honestly apologising for tracks he's lost the origin of, and immediately happily updating the liner notes when they're re-found, and up-front offering to remove any artist who wishes to call herself out of the project - these are all such obvious, explicit gestures of generous, artistic goodwill, and up-to-date cross-promotion savoir-faire - and without a dime earned for any of these collateral troubles - that it's just disheartening to see that he's still not given the benefit of the doubt.

To wit: proceding without seeking permission really seems part of the point, here. And he sets such a high bar of what this can lead to, that to me the instinct to deny this radically innovative form of music-making, which is what's expressed in the wish to constrain/conform it to an empty/old etiquette of permission/attribution, when what's at work here is active inclusion into the artistry, a gateway to a shared limelight, plus an involvement of the audience to search&discovery themselves - it's just so missing the point that I'm honestly surprised. What a hardened crowd we've become.
posted by progosk at 12:49 PM on October 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Art? Theft? This thread is properly cursed by Greyface.

Don't let the dominant ideas get to you. Life can be joy and play.
posted by uffda at 12:49 PM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Lyrics in a Weird Al polka song are probably being used to a very different aesthetic end than their creator intended.

But Weird Al always gets permission--even though he isn't necessarily legally required to do so.

If everyone who created anything got to veto all potential reuses and references to their work, no one would have ever created anything.


Yes--if you imagine an absurd, extreme claim that no one made, it sure does sound absurd and extreme, doesn't it. "If no one was ever allowed to eat any food at all we'd all DIE! Therefore I'm allowed to eat the icecream you just bought."

The specific case I suggested was not simply reusing someone else's musical phrase or lyrics (although that's already getting into tricky areas), it was doing so in a way that identified that person with the re-use.

Would you be cool with me posting comments to Metafilter over your username (assuming I had the wherewithal to hack into your account) that were a mixture of things you'd actually said and things I thought "improved" those comments? And that's just over a pseudonymous identity. Would it be cool if I did the same thing on your Facebook feed? I mean, hey, it's all just creativity, right?

Pretending that complex ethical problems have "easy" solutions isn't actually a helpful way to move towards resolving them.
posted by yoink at 12:57 PM on October 1, 2014


naju: How would one actually go about building these songs out of their constituent parts, if every single constituent part needed to go through a clearing process before they were included in the composition? I'm actually curious about the creative process here, and I wouldn't be surprised if he experiments with hundreds of different clips and ultimately discards a lot of them on the cutting room floor during the making of any one track. And during the process, he might find a clip that serves as a groundwork and inspiration for the rest of the track, and keep going from there.


... And then that base track might get taken out too! Interesting aesthetic principle. Reminds me of this bit, from an interview I did with Prem Krishnamurthy. This part got cut before the piece was published (so it's an MF exclusive!):

Prem: A good friend in Berlin, in quoting a techno DJ -- I can't remember who, now -- relates that, in a certain kind of techno music, you start with a really catchy sample, a really catchy bass line, say, and then you build an entire track around it, with all the details and balancing and so on. And then you take out the bass line. You take out the thing that created all the structure. And then what happens is: the whole thing is opened up. It's referring to a thing that's missing, which is the thing that's driving it ...

Me: So like in Bach's sonatas for unaccompanied violin, where the violin's part implies the part of its absent accompaniment, on piano, say. So, as with removing the bass line, the very removal or absence creates a necessary structure but also always suggests the absent part, which leads the listener in a sense to recreate it in their head, or whatever.

Prem: My friend Florian was talking about this -- he's also a graphic designer and art director -- and he had art directed a number of photo shoots that used this principle. They're photo shoots of food and things, for a magazine. You look at them and they look really interesting but you don't know why. And he says, well look there's this story that's going on there. But you don't see it. And once he tells you what it is, it becomes totally obvious. There's a kind of narrative principle to the shows here that may or may not be apparent in the end result, or maybe it becomes that sort of hook, that the other things dance to.
posted by zbsachs at 1:04 PM on October 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


There's no question it's transformative.

You might be able to make that argument for many of the samples, but probably not for the vocal recordings (and underlying works) that are the basis of the songs.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:07 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


He is certainly not fastidiously attributive. He just links to the source videos, and you have to click a button to get there. That is, literally, the least he could do beyond nothing at all. When I release an album, I note everyone who worked on every track and exactly which instrument(s) they played. And these are people who consented to being on the album! That is just basic courtesy.

I would have way less of a problem with this project if, when you moused over the video, you saw a list of everyone's names and their instrumental / vocal / compositional contribution to the track. That would be at least a standard level of attribution.

It is great that he's willing to remove people who object to being in the videos, but in the future he should craft, like, a form letter that says "hey youtubeuser2349, my name is Kutieman and I have this cool project and can I use your video as part of it" because I'm guessing that all of those asked would say "hell yes, exposure!" and there would be no ill will to sweet-talk his way out of. That is, I believe, called "due diligence."
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:17 PM on October 1, 2014


Grumpy uncles will be grumpy uncles, I guess.

Me, I'll go delve back into the music.

posted by progosk at 1:29 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Would you be cool with me posting comments to Metafilter over your username (assuming I had the wherewithal to hack into your account) that were a mixture of things you'd actually said and things I thought "improved" those comments?

Now look who's making 'an absurd, extreme claim that no one made'. Kutiman is not hacking into anyone's Youtube accounts and posting his mashups under their name. I guess if you want to create a new Mefi account and post only comments made by finding anagrams of comments I've written, go for it. You don't even need my permission.
posted by echo target at 1:31 PM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


At first, I was going to say that y'all are a bunch of grumps about this. But after listening to the first track, that's not so much sampling of Kymrence Young, as it is lifting her vocals. I'm sure it's not the complete track from her, but I was imagining sampling in the style of a short segment pulled from a performance, then looped if not actually modified, closer to Girl Talk than this. But the works really are transformative, especially as he primarily works from samples of solo artists.

I think the credits are well-done, but far from perfect. They fit the minimal visual appearance of the whole site, but a little pop-up over the text could also fit into the style of the site.

Then again, I'm a huge fan of sampled works, both legal and otherwise. If hip-hop producers had to get permission for all of the original works in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there would be no hip-hop today (or there would be a lot more Roots-like live bands).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:50 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


What he is doing is actually way beyond the current standard for sample-based music. As a point of comparison, previous Girl Talk albums only provided the full sample list if you donated $10 or more, and precisely zero of his samples have ever been cleared ahead of time (it arguably wouldn't even be possible to make an album like that otherwise - a typical Girl Talk album might consist of over 500 samples and there's no automated or streamlined process for getting sample clearance the way there is for doing a cover). And by keeping the result as a video, Kutiman actually already is crediting them visually in a way that most sample-based music, like Girl Talk, does not. And Girl Talk is selling his releases, which Kutiman is absolutely not doing.

I also find the argument that "it's not in the video itself!" more than a little bit of a reach. If you credit a musician on an album, it's in the liner notes, not voice-over on the CD or pop-up text in the music video. Similarly, if you're watching this on YT, you literally just scroll down to see the sample list along with actual links to the source. If you're watching it on the full-screen site, you literally just move the mouse and there's a text field in big font that says "SONG CREDITS." Clicking on any of the embedded YT videos gives them increased views (and because of how YT works, this could actually mean paying them a super nominal, but actually non-zero amount). Complaining that this isn't "enough" attribution because there isn't literally text within the video itself seems completely unreasonable to me.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:29 PM on October 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't have a lot of truck with the stealing arguments. When you upload a video to YouTube, and put it on public, you don't get a say who watches your video, however much you might dislike them or their views, nor do you get to dictate how exactly people watch them.

For me, this is like taking pictures of people in a public place. I can understand why many don't like it or feel uncomfortable, but it's legal for a reason, and a good one.
posted by smoke at 3:55 PM on October 1, 2014


I'm actually curious about the creative process here, and I wouldn't be surprised if he experiments with hundreds of different clips and ultimately discards a lot of them on the cutting room floor during the making of any one track. And during the process, he might find a clip that serves as a groundwork and inspiration for the rest of the track, and keep going from there. I would guess it would kill a certain part of the flow of this project if he was hampered by the bureaucracy of clearance.

this absolutely, a million times. Sorry for the hyperbole but this kind of thing strikes very close to home. Creativity is wild by nature. It doesn't understand, guidelines, boundaries -- it just goes where it must. The degree to which you impose bureaucracy onto it is the degree to which you neuter it.

Which isn't to say that I don't understand many of the concerns raised here -- I just think they are less important than the creative work itself.
posted by philip-random at 4:02 PM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


What I love about these videos is the sense that all over the world there are people making music in a thousand different ways and that something beautiful has been made out of that.
posted by macrael at 4:44 PM on October 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's great - I'm surprised it's all ballads this time though. No barn burners like "Mother of All Funk Chords" or "Babylon Band". I guess he just really was into these singers.
posted by fungible at 7:45 PM on October 1, 2014


In my understanding, this is permitted by YouTube's terms of service. The terms include the language "When you upload or post Content to YouTube, you grant ... to each user of the Service, a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free licence to access your Content through the Service, and to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform such Content to the extent permitted by the functionality of the Service and under these Terms." YouTube's Copyright Basics video (a for-dummies explanation of their policies with muppet-like characters on their Copyright page) makes it clear that YouTube won't remove remixes and parodies of other YouTube videos. Since he's a professional musician and producer himself, I also think Kutiman's probably smart enough to talk to a lawyer first to make sure he's legally in the clear before attempting something like this.

(I think "to the extent permitted by the functionality of the Service" means that the permissions granted to other users only apply to videos they post on YouTube. YouTubers can post knock-off "Gangnam Style" videos and "Royals" covers on YouTube to their heart's content, but if they publish them anywhere else they still need permission.)

Kutiman's offer to remove samples from his remixes if their creators object is a courtesy offered out of respect to other musicians. Even it's permitted under the TOS, musicians might still object to the way their video was used, as grumpybear69 said above. Kutiman seems to be recognizing an ethical obligation to remove content from his remixes if the creators of the clips he's using object, even though, given YouTube's TOS, he's not legally required to do so. I think the logistics of trying to get permission beforehand for every clip you might want to use, where nobody involved has any idea what the final mix is going to sound or look like, would make a project like this practically impossible.
posted by nangar at 9:50 PM on October 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Would you be cool with me posting adjusting comments to on Metafilter over your username (assuming I had the wherewithal to hack into your account) that were a mixture of things you'd actually said and things I thought "improved" those comments? And that's just over a pseudonymous identity. Would it be cool if I did the same thing on your Facebook feed? I mean, hey, it's all just creativity, what we do every day, right?

posted by yoink at 2:57 PM on October 1 [+] [!]


FTFY
posted by nushustu at 1:56 AM on October 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


Tired legal quibbles aside, I'm just so disappointed that ALL THE SONGS ARE SLOW NON-FUNKY BALLADS. They're perfectly inoffensive, probably great for background music, but ugh, what a disappointment after Thru-You.
posted by smammy at 5:54 AM on October 2, 2014


Since he had a prior project of the same nature to use as a reference, it wouldn't have been as hard as people are saying to ask first. But that is just a difference in ethics between myself and Kutiman; it isn't a legal issue.

Many moons ago I made a remix of the "Hello My Future Girlfriend" meme and posted it to mp3.com. Years later it was turned into a video of some kids dancing with a lazer background. I loved it! But then I read about the HMFG kid and how his life had been impacted by the viral explosion of that page and felt bad, because I had been a part of it, even though I meant no harm at all.

For that reason I always ask permission. You never know. One of the source vocal videos for Kutiman is no longer available, but it persists as part of his project. Who knows why it was removed? Coopting the likeness and voice of others should always be done cautiously, out of respect rather than obligation.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:09 AM on October 2, 2014


Two longish interview-based articles about Kutiman remixes:
Meet YouTube’s musical matchmaker, Audra Schroeder, Sept. 23, The Daily Dot.

Pioneering YouTube Collagist Kutiman, Millions of Views Later, Is Not In It for the Money, Harley Brown, Sept. 17, Billboard.
The Daily Dot article mentions that Kutiman has moved to a rural area in southern Israel where he has a really slow internet connection. I wonder if that's affected his composition style – less work with chopped up tiny bits of stuff à la "Mother of all funk chords", "This is what it became" or "Babylon Band". (The Billboard article was published before Kutiman was aware of Deryn Cullen's objection.)
posted by nangar at 7:11 AM on October 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


« Older Take that, Keanu Reeves.   |   Wolves at the Door Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments