“We live in a ‘cut and paste’ culture enabled by technology.”

ACT II: Girl Talk at UVA

Let me begin at the end. This past weekend, UVA’s University Program’s Council brought Girl Talk to John Paul Jones Arena for a free show. It seemed like the perfect way to kick off the annual Block Party festivities and don the elusive game face. Gillis was en pointe, mixing live and remixing some of his hits from the Feed the Animals and Night Ripper albums. Unfortunately, JPJ is a huge arena and the security staff wouldn’t let many people on the floor, putting a damper on the night and causing a lot of people to leave. It was bad planning, but I managed to get down to the floor with a friend, and was elated to hear him mix 80s rock i.e. the stuff that frat parties are made of with rap, pop, and slow jams. It was over entirely too soon, and all I was left with was a stolen blue wristband and a chiropractic nightmare proffered by my over energetic and largely unnecessary head banging. The man known as Girl Talk, despite his nerdy exterior and conspicuous lack of music instruments had rocked the house.

ACT I: Intro to Girl Talk

Fall semester of my third year, I wrote a research paper on Girl Talk, sampling, and fair use. Forever a mash-up fan, I dig what Girl Talk does and think that his music is transformative, and shouldn’t be considered stealing. My thesis?

Digital technology gives unprecedented voice and creative power to fans and amateurs that copyright law tries to prohibit. The convention of sampling used by Girl Talk and other artists like him is an imperative example of beneficial user generated content and fandom enabled by modern technology and the internet. Girl Talk has garnered success and critical acclaim working outside of the mainstream, using the internet, illegal downloading, and blogs to his advantage and creating a new type of fandom. Intellectual Property Rights as they stand are too restrictive, and should be expanded to accommodate and allow sampling. In Girl Talk’s case in particular, creativity should be supported rather than stifled.

I considered Girl Talk the original master of mash-ups, but quickly came to realize that artists like Norwegian Recycling, DJ Earworm, Lenlow and Milkman (to name a few), were doing similar things with music. It stays underground for the most part because as per fair use, these artists can’t legally profit off of the thousands of samples that they use to create mash-ups. Girl Talk’s last album, Feed The Animals (2008) was available from Illegal Art for a “donation,” similar to Radiohead‘s “In Rainbows” (2007) album. Neither act found the distribution particularly profitable, but is essentially the only option for artists like Girl Talk. The money he makes comes from live shows; only recently did he even quit his day job for a fulltime performing gig. Before I graduate, I was determined to see him.

For more info on Girl Talk, check out this exclusive interview with him on the day of the concert.

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