Trouble In Harlem – [DIGC202]

It is undoubtedly one of the most popular songs of 2013. Its catchy hook and verse had everybody shaking their bodies in a cataclysmic state. Constructed in the grimy bedroom of a young music producer from New York City, the track has gone on to claim top 10 successes in over 25 countries and even won the prestigious ‘Dance Track of the Year’ at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards. Any guesses? If you said the Harlem Shake give yourself a pat on the back or some ‘Free Internets’.

The young upstart that combined hypnotic bass music with the vocals of an old reggaeton vocal sample goes by the name of Baauer.

As it stands the track was released by the Mad Decent label on the 22nd of May 2012 but wouldn’t receive extreme notoriety until late February 2013 when it started its viral global rampage. I am sure you can all remember the hilarious scenarios that the song was used as the backdrop for. There wasn’t a day through the whole of March where my Facebook news feed was cluttered with people’s attempts to create the craziest dance moves ever.

It is interesting to note that as it stands Baauer is currently being sued by two parties who both claim that he used unlicensed sample to create his no 1 smash hit. What is even more interesting is that the parasites gentlemen are suing for a sample used that is less than 3 seconds in length. According to the New York Times “reggaeton-artist-turned-evangelical-preacher Hector Delgado and Philadelphia rapper Jayson Musson both claim that the song samples their vocals without permission and they are now seeking compensation. “It’s almost like they came on my land and built a house.”
As a young music producer I find these comments are incredibly unjustified. These two musicians are well within their rights to sue for damages and royalties. My question to them is would they have sued if the song had remained an underground trap anthem and not reached the viral popularity that the track created? The answer to this question is a resounding No! The cruel nature of music copyright legislation deems this use of unlicensed sampling as a breach of intellectual property rights.

Legislation such as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) inhibit the natural evolution of learning. To understand and develop your craft you must use the content of others to appreciate and construct your own ideas, strengths and weaknesses. As for the Harlem Shake case study Baauer has openly said himself that he never imagined to success the song would actually have.
Baauer is 24 years of age. He, much like myself has grown up in a technology driven economy whereby the Internet has given us the every opportunity to unlock our creative potential. We can edit tracks, post them on SoundCloud, receive real time advice and suggestions from those alike, stream new music content, cut, paste and sample to our hearts content. The only catch is if you create a global dance floor destroyer make sure you keep it to yourself.

Sounds incredibly senseless doesn’t it?


Luke Macdonald
2nd Year Media & Communication & Commerce Student @UOW
Majoring in Digital Communication & Marketing