What’s up with mash-ups?

If you’re net savvy in any sense of the word you probably know what a mash-up is. It’s when someone takes multiple works of art and mixes them together to create a new work. Mash-ups are a great example of how technology is enabling average people to easily create digital content. It’s all good creative commons style action.There is one thing about mash-ups that’s been bothering me. All mash-ups seem to be disposable. Repeated consumption is a very strong indicator that some work of art is particularly good. If you listen to a song more than once on purpose it’s probably a good song. If you watch a movie more than once, holy crap it’s a good movie. But if a work is ingested only once and then disposed of, that does not speak well of its quality.

Every mash-up I’ve heard so far, with one exception, has received just one chance. What’s strange is that most mash-ups I enjoyed, yet I still did not go for a second helping. The entertainment of a mashup comes from the cleverness of the combination. Once you’ve discovered that combination all the mystery and excitement is lost. Experiencing it again doesn’t add anything new, and it is therefore less enjoyable. Think of it like a joke heard a second time. It’s not always funny if you know the punchline beforehand.
I think there is a way to solve this problem. Notice that most mashups, especially musical ones, are comprised entirely of sampled content. Very rarely does someone add their own original work to a mashup. I think if people started making more mashups with their own original work they could begin to create art worthy of repeat consumption.

Take Dread Zeppelin for example. Their music is a combination of Led Zeppelin, Elvis Presley and Reggae. But they don’t copy and paste beats together, they get out their instruments and play. The words and basic rhythms are taken from the other sources, but they recreate them rather than taking them outright. The result is a very enjoyable and original sound I can listen to over and over again.

So, this is to all you mash-up artists out there. If you’re going to mix hip-hop master A with rock god B then put the computer away. Grab a guitar and rock out while you rap some mad rhymes. And if you’re going to mash up two paintings, don’t just scan two prints and combine them with Photoshop. Use that Wacom tablet and draw it. I guarantee your results will be a much higher quality contribution to the community. People will enjoy not only the novelty of the combination, but the art in and of itself. And they will enjoy it many times over.

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