Where do you draw the line between plagiarism & creativity?
The debate between plagiarism and creativity is one that has gone on for decades within the music industry. With notable cases such as Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’, as well as many others, it is something that is often talked about & surrounded in controversy. Is it acceptable to copy someone else’s composition? Or is that simply taking inspiration for your own creative work? This is a discussion that is talked about within the music industry but is never fully resolved. And so that is what we’re going to talk about in this article.
Production is a technicality that is learned from other people (in the vast majority of cases). In a similar fashion to sports, we look for & research new techniques, understand them and then go onto the field to practice until we are able to perfect the new skill. For example, you could watch some sound design tutorials online, and then go into your DAW and try to replicate the skill until you’re absolutely incredible at sound design. Essentially, constant learning & adapting is crucial to success as a music producer.
If copying ideas is considered to be a normal practice, then surely the same logic would apply to music production and borrowing creative ideas from other producers to enhance your work? Obviously not. The lines between plagiarism and creativity are undeniably blurred to a point that nobody can distinguish where the boundaries are. Although there are arguments for both differing points of view, one thing is clear: human beings naturally want to copy & imitate the habits of successful people, producers, and people in which we aspire to be like. So whether it’s a song with amazing sound design, a new style of vocal performance, or simply drum patterns which sound incredible, the reality is that this form of copying will always be inherent to human behaviour.
View this post on Instagram
There are several ways in which people create music. For example, they could create content without any musical understanding of concepts & theories. Simply by hearing a melody and trying to recreate something similar, they can often produce a talented composition (if they have a bit of talent). By simply grouping ideas in their head, and taking inspiration from their favourite music, it’s possible for someone to create a genuinely amazing song. Alternatively, people can use a combination of inspiration & theoretical knowledge to create music. This could include knowledge of chord structure, music theory, sound design, automation, and many other aspects of production. But once more, this method obviously takes a lot of inspiration from works of a third party in order to generate content (music) for the producer. For example, finding a tropical house song you like, using major chord structures to create a similar positive feeling, and generating your own style based on the original song. Or even using sample packs of vocals to create a house song which is heavily reliant on a few seconds of spoken word.
So, although it may be difficult to create an entirely new idea, it is certainly possible to put your own spin on absolutely everything you do. For example, there have been thousands, if not millions, of songs with the same structure and chord progression – yet the majority sound vastly different. This is because of producers creating their own vision for how a project should be. Likewise, there have been thousands of articles written on the internet about how to market your music. Yet, each one has its own flavour, information & style which distinguishes itself from everyone else. As long as your intent is clear, and you are able to put a twist on content, there shouldn’t be much of a problem.