Sunday, 14 September 2014

Get Up, Stand Up, for your airplay rights!. A chat with Sam Redmore

“I handed Craig Charles a CD at a gig. The next week, he played something from it on 6 music”.

A year or so back, I looked at how the meaning of the word DJ has changed over the last 80 years or so. At radio, DJs have largely become 'talent', 'personalities', or 'presenters'. And they rarely play discs any more. Today's DJ is a club and studio beast: producing and mixing. Music knowledge, taste, imagination and production skills are now essential to craft a seriously good mix.

Sam Redmore is one such beast. He's increasingly picking up national airplay for his mixes. In particular, there's a fruitful relationship with Craig Charles at 6 music, who has given his work several airings. Sam is due to guest on the show next Saturday, 20th September. 

That moves Sam into a new position. He's recognised as a creator, an artist in his own right. He's releasing mixes on vinyl. Here's the latest in his own name – a limited edition vinyl pressing on specialist dance label Felt Tip.

Here's the thing: if you're an artist, you should get royalties for airplay. And mix artists should in turn pay royalties to musicians whose work they sample. That's the principle. It's also the law of the land. So, how does that work? 

Sam, what's the deal with rights to the original source material in your mixes, once they get a commercial release or proper airplay? Just curious....
There's no deal on them as such - I don't have the rights to the material, but the stuff on vinyl is pressed in such small quantities (500 copies) that we're unlikely to be taken to task over it. I've never received any money for 6 Music airplay.
 Wow. I figured that nobody's going to mess with small circulation material. But does that places a limit on ever making serious money? What is the route – is there a route - for mixer guys like you?
There's certainly not money to be made on sales in small quantities like this. Usually a reworking of a high-profile artist comes about for me with the intention of tailoring something to fit in better with my DJ sets (rather than creating a version to sell). If I get DJ bookings of the back of putting out these edits though, then I think that could ultimately be a way to make money from them. There's a DJ called Reflex. He has a huge re-edit release back catalogue. I don't know what he's made from sales, but his DJ fees are now a very decent amount. He's getting at least two bookings a week, so I guess it's working out fairly well for him!
The other route and the one that I'd like to move more in the direction of is making more original material, although obviously something that has 'Bob Marley' on the sleeve is more likely to get listens in the first place...
The interesting angle for me is that there are two copyrights in recorded works - composer for the song and mechanical for the recording. Both attract royalties. So, while you are sampling existing works, and so should cut a deal for commercial exploitation of these works - remember all that fuss over James Brown samples 25 years ago? - a creative mixer such as yourself is making work which needs both of these rights cleared. Especially the mechanical right, which is your creation, even if the building blocks come from somewhere else. 

I think that's why there's not too much of a fuss made over something which might get a play or two or get a limited run of 500 on disc - it's just too much trouble to go to court when the returns would be pennies. But airplay money on a national station is not to be sneezed at, and the mechanisms exist to collect royalties once you're in PRS. A lot of recorded work earns airplay fees that don't get to the creators. Money for one or two plays goes unclaimed for various... and flows into a general pool which is sliced up among existing members. And the big boys get the lion's share.When it's all your work, matters get much more lucrative, of course...
That's interesting, I hadn't really given it too much thought to be honest. I will be getting PRS registered very soon though, especially as I finally have some of my own material nearing completion.

As of publish date, the latest Sam Redmore remix on Soundcloud

It's pretty rare for a DJ mix to be picked up by mainstream radio. How did you get noticed by the likes of Charles and Stevens? 
Very simple - I went to a night Craig Charles was DJing at, and handed him a CD. I had no idea whether he would listen to it, or even remember to take it with him, but the following week he played something from it on his show. There were quite a few tracks on that CD that he went on to play, and then his manager got in touch (the CD obviously had my contact details on) asking if I could send him some more stuff. With most of the other 6 Music DJs like Huey Morgan and Rob Da Bank, their producers got in touch with me asking if I could send some stuff through. I guess they had probably heard some bits on Craig's show.
So it can work! Excellent. As you move more towards using real instruments to add texture to your mixes, is the role of mixer/creator becoming more important? 
There's certainly a creative element needed with most of the work I do now that wasn't there a few years ago. The first tracks I did were mash-ups, taking a vocal from one song and an instrumental from another. Everything was pretty much there to begin with, and it's about trying to find existing material and parts that work with each other, rather than composing anything new. Most of the tracks I work on now involve building things from the ground up, and that can include writing original parts. On the other hand the stuff I did with The Bluebeat Arkestra was based around taking a song that they had written and moulding all the different parts so that they worked together as one. This involved much less creating, but lots of mixing to make everything fit. 
What about incorporating new studio techniques live? Or is live always a matter of live sequencing of pre-recorded material, as opposed to flying in your own instrumentation? Are you turning full circle, or meeting bands with DJs halfway? 
I think that the studio work influences how I play live in so much as I tend to listen to the arrangement of the tracks I play and look for that perfect moment to mix from one tune to the next a bit more closely than I used to. I don't imagine that I'll ever move to playing any live instrumentation, simply because I'm not proficient enough at any instrument to be able to do so. There are lots of options out there today to make your sets more live, but if the end result is that the music doesn't sound as good, then it's not necessarily the right way to go. 
Combining live performance with DJ techniques can be wonderful and highly creative when done well – Fingathing, for example, mix turntablism and sampling with live double bass to tremendous effect. One of the things I like about DJing is having the freedom to play any tracks from any artist, any genre and in any order depending on how the night pans out. Playing my own music for an hour or so seems a bit... tedious. I have worked with a very talented local beatboxer called Ed Geater, where he's provided live beats to pre-prepared beatless tracks that I was playing. It went down really well. It made the set more interactive, more of a spectacle, but it's not something I'd be keen to do for a full set. 

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