Monthly Archives: May 2010

Today We Learn About: Led Zeppelin & the Blues

Baby, baby, I’m gonna bring it on home to you

I done bought my ticket, I got my load
Conductor done hollered, “All, aboard”
I’m-a take my seat, ride way back
and watch this train roll down the track

Baby, baby, I’m gonna bring it on home to you

-Willie Dixon “Bring It on Home” (1963)

Baby, baby, gon’ bring it on home to you

I’ve got that ticket, I got that load
Join up, gone higher, all aboard
I’m-a take my seat, ride way back
and watch this train roll down the track

Gonna bring it on home, bring it on home to you

-Led Zeppelin “Bring It on Home” (1969)

The popular English rock band Led Zeppelin has been brought to court for their multiple instances of copyright infringement. These cases have settled out of court, but are outnumbered by the startling similarities that reside in the remainder of the band’s catalog. Through an examination of the blues as an art form and contemporary copyright law as it stood at the time of Led Zeppelin’s fame, it will be shown that the band went far beyond the tradition of shared concepts, rhythms, and structure that is present in the blues. Led Zeppelin has committed the unforgivable; they have not only taken ideas, lyrics, arrangements, melodies, and rhythms without any credit, but they have taken these musical elements from a population that has been historically exploited. Led Zeppelin is yet another in a long line of western light skinned appropriators that have taken what they deemed just from African-American culture without fair compensation. This practice has not been isolated to labor and culture, but expanded to creative works that are protected under internationally recognized laws. Called into question is the African-American community’s ability to combat such appropriation. Often the artists themselves are not responsible for litigation, but their record label or other representative who act of the musician’s behalf. We will examine this tendency and its implication for what can be seen as a broad, unrecognized cultural theft. Continue reading

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Today We Learn About: The Implications of Business on an Art Form

The music business is changing because the record business is changing. While touring, merchandising, and licensing continue to flourish, the sale of CD’s has diminished in recent years. While CD sales decrease, digital music retailers like iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody and eMusic set new revenue records almost yearly. Companies like Tunecore allow artists to become their own record label. A shift in revenue source, a focus on singles over album sales, the creation of new mediums for delivery, and the ease of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) distribution have drastically changed a landscape that for decades has relied on an unwavering business model. In changing times, a business model must change as well. Along with this shift in business model must come a shift in regard for the very art form that has driven the music industry forward since sheet music was sold from Tin Pan Alley. Likewise, a shift in regard for those who create this art must also take place. Continue reading

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