For every blank CDr bought, a few cents “pirate tax” are added to compensate artists for loss of revenue when people share their albums. However, not every artist agrees that sharing is wrong so as a statement, the Swedish artist Mr.Suitcase has used his “pirate tax” income to make a pirate album.
Mr.Suitcase‘s latest album “Frauds” is something in between a remix and a mash-up, built out of other people’s music, and fully funded by the pirate tax refund he received for his first album.
It all began last year when, having released his album “Guidelines For An Emerging Century”, Mr.Suitcase received a payment from Stim, the Swedish Performing Rights Society. Included in it was a refund from the tax that is put on all recordable media in Sweden. Whenever CDRs, mp3-players or similar items are sold, an extra fee of 0,04 crowns/megabyte is added and later paid back to the artists.
“First, I got a bit put off by receiving the money because to me, that kind of arbitrary hand-out of alms is a ridiculous system,” Mr.Suitcase said. “Then I thought, why not see it as an opportunity and earmark the money for something creative. And since the money came from piracy, I had to use it for more piracy, right?”
With the money, Mr.Suitcase bought old used effect boxes and began experimenting. Without knowing where it would take him, he started sending fragments and loops from other people’s songs through the effects.
“I’ve always been fascinated by cut-and-paste aesthetics. I grew up with artists like The Future Sound of London and Saint Etienne who layered samples and combined the bits and pieces to create something brand new, something that became more than just the sum of the elements.”
He says the project “got completely out of control” when friends started to drop by the studio to record new instruments and vocals over the samples. In the end, he had an album’s worth of new songs, although they all were rooted in someone else’s work.
“As the project grew, I lost count of how many original songs that were used in it. Nearly a hundred, I’d guess. It’s very diverse, from Prince to The Rice Twins, from Ashanti to Zongamin. In the end, I realized it wasn’t a mixtape or mash-up but it wasn’t an album either. I decided the tracks were all frauds, called it a wrap and posted it on The Pirate Bay.”
Mr.Suitcase thinks artists should be more relaxed about non-commercial use of their work. Since the world went digital, he feels the availability is a natural consequence that should be embraced rather than hopelessly opposed.
“The way Internet works, there’s no reason to argue for or against file sharing. We can just conclude here and now that file sharing ‘is’. For me, I’m very attached to the idea that the top-down structure of producers and consumers has turned into a blur, and that anything created isn’t only there to be experienced but can also be a building-block for new creations. It’s fantastic! I was absolutely thrilled when techno producer The Field used one of my recordings for his brilliant track ‘Istedgade’.”
“To me, ‘Frauds’ is a statement. There’s so much negativity in the debate. ‘File sharing means artists can’t…’, ‘File sharing means nobody will ever…’ I think it’s the opposite, I think the beautiful aspect of the digital era is that anything recorded can be remixed, tweaked and modified.”
Mr.Suitcase’s album “Frauds” can be downloaded via BitTorrent at mrsuitcase.se.