CARIBIA READER JESSYCA STANSBURY-MCCARGO DISCUSSES ONLINE MUSIC SHARING AND THE COPYRIGHT CONTROVERSY

(Originally published at OnePaper.com)
by Jessyca Stansbury-McCargo 

Special to CaribiaDigest.com

The “Copyright Infringement” controversy rages on. Ownership of the music is at the center of the debate, and who has the right to reproduce that music. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) contends that the composer owns the music and as such has complete control over what, where, who can and cannot reproduce the music.  (Pictured: Blackheart Woman, Rootsman Rak)

As a patron can I reproduce the music that I purchase and give it away? Can I make several copies and give them away as holiday and birthday gifts? Can I play them at music venues in the park? Can I use them as “warm up music” at concerts? What if I want to give them away as prizes? Can I download them onto my hard drive and share them online? If I do any or all of these things, am I guilty of piracy? Or, am I worse than a pirate, because I am mass-producing the music and then “giving” it away. There is no financial gain here, for anyone; neither for myself nor the artists. What, then, becomes the legal and working definition of piracy? Is it only when the music gets into the hands of the people through/by an exchange of money? Or, is any means of getting the music into the hands of the people in such a way as not to be “financially beneficial” to the artiste “piracy”?

No sooner than Napster is dragged into court and forced to shut down its operations pending the meeting of anti-piracy criteria, than a whole community of “Napster clones” comes onto the scene. Literally thousands of music enthusiasts have flocked to these online music sharing sites, including yours truly. Whatever you are looking for you can find it. Whatever you want to share, you are certain to find a waiting audience. The myth that only “geeks” frequent these clubs/groups, are just that: myths. Some of the “hottest” and “newest” music is shared/swapped here and some of the most fiercely talented, brilliant and charismatic DJs from all over the world frequently “share” whole radio mixes, to my sheer delight and to the delight of many hungry, waiting recipients.
REGGAE CROSSES THE BORDER
At the center of this debate music-file swapping is our sweet Caribbean music. At the same time, it is among the largest of the music genres being swapped through cyberspace, with Reggae leading in terms of the number of Groups and Members. We are pleased to have two of the hottest and most talented DJs in the industry granting us audience in this article. We are discussing the whole issue of Copyright Infringement, Online File Swapping and the impact this issue has had on the DJs’ right to earn a living. After all, the DJs play music for the public. They are practicing their trades so effectively that “mixes” are becoming more popular than the singles (of which they are comprised). Also, we will see how the DJs are the artiste’s best friends in the effort to “move” the music.

MEET DJS ROOTSMANRAK AND BLACKHEARTWOMAN
Big Up! Big Up! To DJs RootsmanRak and Blackheartwoman. Reader! You can just look at their names and see that they mean business, can’t you? Look at them long enough and you can actually feel the heat with which they “move” the music into the hearts and minds of their audience. Both are real live DJs and two of the many driving forces behind the increasing popularity of Reggae. In his song: “Reggae Gone Cross The Border”; Junior Reid sings:

“It gone cross the England border
mash it up in Canada, a Canada,
mash it up all over
Cross from Jamaica, Jamaica.
People want More Reggae, more Reggae”

Reggae has crossed many borders. Not in the history of music has a particular genre gone so far in such a short period of time. Could Bob Marley have ever dreamed that Reggae with its obscure and humble beginnings would one day cross the “borders” of cyberspace? Here we have two of the driving forces behind this musical phenomenon – Blackheartwoman and RootsmanRak

Jessyca: There has been an issue blazing in the news for the past several months around the issue of Copyright Infringement. I know where a lot of DJ’s stand on this issue, where do you stand?

RootsmanRak: I don’t really read the press, as most of what they report on, is sensationalised negativity and I am a positive youth trying to spread positive vibes. So I don’t know exactly what the press are saying, but I guess most of the fuss is being made by the big companies, who in my opinion have enough money. If they were using their money to help make this planet a better place (i.e. building schools, homes for the homeless, food for the hungry, etc), then I would support them. However they are just lining their pockets, buying bigger cars, bigger houses, eating at expensive restaurants, etc. How can you expect me to have sympathy for them?! My main concern is for the artists. Unfortunately there has always been a big issue with artists getting their royalties paid. And for some reason reggae artists seem to be dealt with in a more amateurish and slack way. You only have to look at the state I Roy was in when he sadly passed away. So my aim is to make sure my idrins get the royalties they deserve.

Blackheartwoman: This is a very hard question to answer honestly, but I give it my best shot. I believe that the Artists are rightfully due compensation and they should get theirs royalties for their work. We should also go out and buy the music CD’s that we have sampled in order for them to collect their royalties. But I think that music is for sharing and so there for once it has been given to the world to listen to it should be shared.

Jessyca: Would you care to share with the readers how you would describe your presence in AG (Audiogalaxy) as a professional DJ and Owner/Operator of the “The One and Only Reggae Club”?

RootsmanRak: LOL, I only use Audiogalaxy to promote and inform people of the Roots n Culture Reggae community activities and to make contacts (I think people may have cottoned onto this by now). The only music I push out to people are MP3 copies of my radio show. The only other music I would push out is for artist friends who ask me to do so. So my presence on AG is purely functional.

Blackheartwoman: I feel that I have a dominating and inspiring presence in “The One And Only Reggae Club” and “The Reggae Club Radio Show”. I labor hard to keep everything constructive, peaceful and with solidarity in the structure of those media events. I’ve strived to get that, and so far I think it is working. With so much trouble in our world right now, I think we need to be happy about our self and forget about our troubles. One can achieve that with wonderful solid music and phenomenal people.

Jessyca: What is your opinion on Online Music Sharing?

RootsmanRak: Generally I think it is a good thing. Music is for the people; it’s not just for the rich. If the major companies sold their records at a reasonable price, the need to pirate would disappear, i.e. why would you go to the effort of downloading tunes and trying to burn them to CD if it was just as easy and cheap to purchase a quality original. If the argument against on-line music sharing is loss of revenue, I would counter that by pointing out that a significant proportion of people who download from music sharing sites are not the type that buy tunes regularly anyway. If these people didn’t get their music from the internet they would probably continue to copy it from their friends or buy bootleg CD’s. So I can’t see it making a major impact. Besides, no electronic format can ever touch the quality of vinyl, so those of us who collect vinyl will always continue to collect vinyl. In my case if someone sends me a good song in MP3 that I do not have, I try to find a vinyl copy! So in this scenario it is actually aiding sales, as I may never have heard the tune before, let alone thought about buying it. Which brings me onto another point that file sharing is widening the audience of “minority music”. Lets face it, how often can you get to hear music like Reggae on the radio (unless you are in Jamaica or you tune into Roots n Culture Radio on the internet). All the major stations play commercialised music, which leaves no space for Reggae, so how do we get new people interested, how do we get to spread the positive Reggae vibe to the world? Music sharing allows people to try out different styles of music, that they may never have had any exposure to before. Roots n Culture Radio was set up to address this very issue. We play a wide variety of positive Reggae, from all over the world, we play tunes other stations do not play, we have access to Reggae from all corners of this earth. We give full playlists of all the tunes we play, so as well as entertaining people we also educate them. I have many listeners who are new to Reggae, and tune in to learn about Reggae. Personally I have discovered new artists by having a tune sent to me by a fellow Reggae fan, which I may never have heard of otherwise.

Blackheartwoman: I think that once it is shared with the world then it should be free for everyone to listen to. That is how a lot of us sample the music and if we like the music we should all go out and buy it. It also helps the Artist get his music out to the masses of Music Lovers. I feel that sharing music with others also helps people to hear other types of music that may never hear Reggae Music.

SHARING INDUSTRY MEMORIES
Jessyca: What is the funniest/most humorous experience you’ve had while playing at a music venue?

RootsmanRak: I love to watch people’s reaction to certain tunes. At the moment I am one of a select few DJ’s who can play a track called “Terror in America” by one of the UK’s best roots singers, Errol Bellot. I love to see peoples’ reactions, when they hear the lyrics of this particular tune … they all go crazy, some of them can’t believe what they are hearing, it always brings an immediate reaction … that makes me laugh every time!

Blackheartwoman: Well I guess you could say it happened just a few weeks ago when I entered a mix into a Sound-Clash — Well, let’s say that I thought that I knew what I was doing and went ahead with it – thinking all was good and I had a chance of scoring big in the contest. The day was set for April Fool’s Day. The biggest “April Fools” laugh was on me. I set the date myself. I got no votes… When I reflect back on it all now it seems very hilarious to me. It was Happy April Fools Day to myself — LOL… I must say that I did learn something from the experience and that is all good in my eyes.

Jessyca: You will most likely not say this about yourself, but I feel quite good about saying this: you are one of the MOST talented DJs in the world. How long have you been mixing music?

RootsmanRak: I have been playing music since I was teenager, however I only started Roots n Culture Radio two years ago, which was my first DJ experience. I never thought about becoming a DJ before, it just kinda happened!!! We were discussing certain classic roots tunes in the Roots n Culture reggae community, which to my surprise many people from outside of the UK had never heard of. I wanted them to hear these tunes, as no reggae fan should be deprived of hearing such classics, and hence Roots n Culture Radio was born.

Blackheartwoman: I started out at a very young age loving music and wanted to learn more. I have been mixing music since I was a teenager with a cassette deck and a few dozen record albums…

Jessyca: Where is your major venue of operation? By that I mean, of which country are you a citizen?

RootsmanRak: I live in the UK and do most of my DJ work here. I move with a positive roots sound system called King Original. They have been going since 1973 and are regularly working with reggae legends such as Frankie Paul, Johnny Osbourne, Sugar Minott, Daddy Freddie, Eek a Mouse, Luckie D, etc., etc., etc. (the list is endless). Incidentally King Original were the first people to work with Luckie D and produced his first album “Golden Rule” on their Original International, which is now a collectors’ item! Moving with King Original has been a great boon for me as I have been able to meet and reason with so may reggae legends. So as you can see I am heavily influenced by British and Jamaican reggae artists alike. Having said that my Radio station is on the internet and I have a world-wide audience, hence my shows are geared up towards a global audience. I want to expose as much good positive reggae as I can, so I have special shows highlighting Reggae that other stations won’t play. For example in the past few years I have played, Brazilian, Mexican, Hawaiian, Spanish, Indian, German, Swedish, Finish, French, African, Maltese and even Russian Reggae, which I have no qualms about playing alongside the Jamaican, British and American Reggae. If it’s good Reggae, if it is positive (i.e. no slackness, no homophobic, sexist or gun lyrics) I play it! This international feel is what makes me unique when I play out at live events.

Blackheartwoman: I am a Canadian from Ontario, Canada.

Jessyca: “Mixed” music is catching on these days, how would you account for that?

RootsmanRak: Mix tapes have been around for a very long time. I have been making mix tapes for my friends since the mid 80’s (I now sell my mix CD’s as a promotional tool for Roots n Culture Community and to help pay for the radio station). The advancement of computers, the internet, has made production and distribution much easier, which could account for the apparent increase in popularity. Having said that I should point out that there is a great amount of skill required to create a mix. Anyone can put tunes onto a tape, but a good mix tape is much, much more than a collection of individual tracks. A good mix tape tells a story, it sets moods, it flows and takes you to unexplored dimensions, through all kinds of emotions. A good mix tape is a sensorial journey, it is an artistic creation. A few months ago a friend excitedly phoned me to say he had found a tape I did for him 15 years ago, so we listened to it together and had a good laugh reminiscing about “the good old days” and what that tape meant to us!!! I also found an experimental tape that I did with a friend a very long time ago. We were playing with some decks in a squat, and we were firing, we were well on form and it sounded fantastic. In fact it sounded so good that we decided to record it. So we started again and tried to recreate the session, using the same tunes, in the same order, etc, … but it was awful, really terrible!!! But we had great fun doing it, so I kept it as a reminder of that day. Big up my bredrin Muz, yeah man I&I still have that tape!!!

Blackheartwoman: The way I see it is that most people want to be entertained and that is what they get from a DJ styled mix, pure music to jam with; nonstop listening unlike a CD that has pauses in between songs.

Jessyca: Reggae music has been enjoying world-wide popularity for many years. Bob Marley has been accredited with being the first to make it known to the world. How would you like the world to remember you?

RootsmanRak: After overhearing two elderly men bemoaning their regrets in life I made a commitment to myself. I decided that I was not going to waste my life. I decided that by the time I pass away, I wanted at least one person to say, “There goes a great guy, this world was a better place for him having lived”. This lead me on to become a homeopath, and a hands on healer, which lead me on to do lots of charity work, in various disaster zones, war-torn countries and in deprived areas. I soon discovered I could help not just one person, but many. I think about this every day, I look at my day and, say what have I done towards this goal today, how many people have I helped today, how many people have I brought some kind of happiness to. So that is how I want to be remembered, as a positive youth who makes an effort to help people and spread positivity at every opportunity.

Blackheartwoman: I would like to be remembered as being a strong individual with a positive out look about life. Also to be known for my Love of music.

Jessyca: Do you consider yourself also making a contribution to the Reggae Culture or the Jamaican culture?

RootsmanRak: LOL, the mere act of living constitutes contributing to life! As far as I know, I am still alive so naturally I am contributing. I am contributing to Reggae, by spreading its positive message through the radio and through my live events. I also run a Reggae Community at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/roots-n-culture, which has over 300 members (including artists, DJ’s, fans, promoters, producers, etc.) in which we act as a community, by sharing knowledge, helping each other, etc. which means we can all grow, “grow together”. I like to think of this community as a microcosmic reflection of the way I would love the macrocosmic world to be – a warm, loving, sharing, and caring community.

Blackheartwoman: I know that I am contributing to the Reggae Culture by way of music and with sharing my ideas about Jamaican music. I feel that without this style of music the world would be a lesser place to express our feeling within one’s self. For it is music that makes most people want to sing with joy in their hearts.

Jessyca: How would you say American DJ’s differ from Caribbean/American DJ’s?

RootsmanRak: Having never been to the US my only knowledge of US DJ’s comes from listening to the various internet radio shows from the US! What I notice there is that US Reggae is more akin to Pop Reggae and Dancehall, which is more the commercial, negative and lovey-dovey tunes, whereas in the UK, we are more into our conscious roots, as well as the Dancehall, Lovers, etc. Having said that I don’t know if that is fairly representative of US DJ’s. I personally know of many friends in the US who are 100% roots. I also know my idrin Elliot from Trade Roots in San Diego sells a lot of conscious roots tunes. As my bredrin Errol Bellot would say, “Everyone love the vibes that we bring, everybody loves Jah music we sing, we’re globe trotting, and we’re roots rocking, Roots gone international”!!!

Blackheartwoman: There is somewhat of a difference between the American DJ’s Style and the Caribbean/American DJ’s Style of music presentation. I find that the American DJ’s Style is more brash and negative in nature. Where as I do find that Caribbean/American DJ’s Style is more uplifting and positive in their choice of music.

Author’s Note: RootsmanRak and Blackheartwoman are owners and operators of their own Audiogalaxy music groups. RootsmanRak is the Owner of the “Roots and Culture” Group and Blackheartwoman is the Owner of “The One and Only Reggae Club” Group, and both can heard on the 365 Live Online Radio Show. I consider myself lucky and blessed to be in the company of such talent. Whether or not the issue of Online Music Sharing or Swapping is considered to be a form of piracy is up to the individual’s definition and anybody’s guess. But suffice it to say, I agree totally with these two musical “Good Samaritans” or Pied Pipers of the heart; wherein they say that: “Music belongs to the people”, and as such is a Sacred Thing giving utterances to the deepest longing of the human soul. One of Ghandi’s definitions of violence is poverty. Try, Reader; I challenge you. Try to live in a world with no music, where the people have no voice, where everything is for sale, and where there is no love.