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April 3, 2024

The Bootleg Beatles - can ‘illegal’ fan remixes be a good music marketing tool?

Amazing news! Your track has been streamed over a million times and gone viral on several platforms. Only, you’ve not seen a penny of the profits as it’s a fan-made remix. 

This is an increasingly common story - some of the most streamed tracks on TikTok are fan-made sped-up remixes of tracks by SZA, Ice Spice and Taylor Swift. 

On the one hand - it’s undeniably great marketing. Your track is being used to soundtrack millions of videos on one of the biggest social networks in the world. Your music is being appreciated and enjoyed by millions across the world. As artist goals go, that’s pretty big. 

Yet, conversely, if it’s a fan-made remix, it’s unlikely you’re enjoying any of the royalties from the streaming bonanza. Plus, your artistic vision has been remixed into warp-speed territory, with your vocals sounding like Chipmunks on Speed (not the worst band name, actually). 

So, where does that leave artists?

Illegal fan-made remixes and edits are notoriously hard to police. Some musicians might take them as a homage to their work and embrace their fans' contributions. Others are much more precious and seek to take down anything that isn’t 100% homegrown and organic. 

Either way, the music industry’s late adoption of the Internet in the 1990s effectively means edits and remixes are the Wild West of Music—they’re unlicensed, unlawful, and virtually impossible to govern. Digital rights company Pex found that there were hundreds of millions of remixes and edits shared on social media in the last few years, all of which ‘generate millions in cumulative revenue for the uploaders instead of the correct rightsholders.’ 

So it’s a big problem that doesn’t seem to disappear. 

One way to approach fan-made remixes is with your marketing head fully engaged. “Can you release your own sped-up remix of your track and get on top of the streaming revenue as SZA did?” suggests Chris I’Anson, One Nine Nine’s Head of Digital. 

Could you collaborate on the viral remix and take control of the project that way? 

Or dive into your back catalogue and take advantage of the sped-up remix trend by picking your own song?

Meng Ru Kuok, CEO of music technology company BandLab, recently told Billboard that the best approach is to embrace the slew of remixes. 

“Rights holders understand that this process is inevitable, and it’s one of the best ways to bring new life to tracks.”

With AI making replicating tracks and vocals much more accessible, the influx of illegal edits, remixes and bootlegs will likely increase. 

So it seems the choices are to fight the uploaders or join forces and embrace the viral trends… 

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