Warner Music Group: lay off our videos!


Last year, I put together a slideshow on the history of gay rights in America, containing well over 100 stills of the recent battle over Proposition 8 and set to the R.E.M. song “Final Straw.”    
The finished product—my final project in a U.S. government class—was something I felt to be a work of art. I later uploaded it to YouTube and, thinking that such a topical issue would generate many hits and spread a message to the world, eagerly awaited my feedback.
But hours after uploading it, I went to revisit my video and could not hear the music. Something wasn’t right. I toggled the volume hoping to hear sound, but my speakers only emitted silence.
Then I saw a note at the bottom of the screen: “This video contains an audio track not authorized by WMG and the audio has been disabled.”
Yes, because I used an R.E.M. song, Warner Music Group (the third largest record business in the world), removed the audio because they feared I had “stolen” their music. A lovely gesture when you consider my video was now a series of images without a fitting track to tie them together.
I’m not the first to fall victim to WMG’s fascism.
Thousands of videos have had their entire audio removed simply because somebody chose to use an AC/DC riff.
I understand that the record industry is losing steam, but this is overreacting. Many people might actually want to buy an artist’s CD after hearing the songs used in an internet video. The third largest music company in the world shouldn’t be offended by the fact that some people actually like their artists enough to cover or artistically interpret their songs.
Yes, there’s the issue of questionable content and I won’t argue with that. Lynyrd Skynyrd would probably not want “Sweet Home Alabama” to be used in a pro-KKK video. That’s why you have to ask artists for their input. If they see no problem with it, why censor it?
In the case of my video, I think R.E.M. would greatly appreciate it. Michael Stipe, the lead singer, is gay and a very outspoken political activist. If the band had seen the video, it’s doubtful that they would want the audio removed.
WMG should stop muting videos. It won’t hurt sales, it will probably increase them. And including or reinterpreting their artists’ songs in widely seen videos is not “the end of the world as we know it.”* I guarantee WMG will continue to thrive.
*And please don’t remove the ink from this article because I quoted an R.E.M. song.