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The Mash Up logo that is used by many artists in representing their albums and creations[1]

A Mashup is an original song composed of parts of other previously released songs. A person that creates mashups is referred to as a mashup artist. Most mashups consist of a collaboration of parts of songs in which they overlap different parts of various songs to create a unique sound. The process of creating a mashup involves taking two or more songs, cutting them up, mixing them together, and ending in a result of their own "interpretation" of the original songs. A mashup "challenges accepted legal standards for musical production and destabilizes the cultural identity of recorded music." Using parts of already established songs can lead to ethical controversies, specifically involving copyright violations. One of the most recognized mashup artists in today's society is Girl Talk, who has produced five mashup albums[2]. Since mashup artists primarily use parts of already commercially successful songs to create their own music there are various ethical implications regarding copyright and the exact bounds of fair use when it comes to artistic remixing of copyrighted works.


A mashup can go by various names:

  • Bootleg
  • Smashup
  • Blends
  • Power mixing
  • Bastard pops


Music sampling dates back to centuries ago. The first musical creation with similarities to mashups is digital sampling in hip hop. A hip hop song utilizes samples in it as well as new material, while a mashup solely uses samples. Mashups first surfaced on the internet in secrecy, with only those with special knowledge able to access them.

However, today, they are now an accepted part of musical mainstream. The first appearance of mashups in the popular press was in Spin Magazine in 2002. By 2006, mashups appeared in publications not specified towards music interests, including "The New York Times", "The New Yorker", and "Newsweek".

Although the creation of a mashup can be complex, the technologies to do so became inexpensive by 2001. [2]

Mashup Artists

Below are a few of the more widely recognized mashup artists among the worldwide music scene.

Girl Talk

Cover art for Feed the Animals, Girl Talk's fourth album.

One of the most well known artists in the mashup industry is Gregg Michael Gillis, otherwise known as Girl Talk. Having started Girl Talk while studying biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve University, Gillis quit the biomedical industry in 2007 to focus solely on his music career. Girl Talk is one of many artists under the record label, Illegal Art, which specializes in music sampling. Other artists with Illegal Art include Junk Culture and People Like Us.

Girl Talk performing in Cleveland, Ohio

Girl Talk has released five albums with Illegal Art: Secret Diary, Unstoppable, Night Ripper, Feed the Animals, and All Day.[3]

Girl Talk has received much attention for the number of samples he utilizes in his albums, as well as become a spotlight figure for the ongoing issues with copyright and fair use of music. His 2010 album "All Day" contains 372 unique samples across 12 separate tracks. [4] Girl Talk does not believe that he is violating any factor of the Fair Use Laws as the law does not specify for mashups and remixes and the length of the song that is used. Thus, Girl Talk feels that he should not have to pay the sustained artists a fee for the work he is using. Additionally, Girl Talk has addressed the need for a reinterpretation of current fair use laws concerning mashups, stating in a 2012 interview with Forbes Magazine that "I basically believe in that idea, that if you create something out of pre-existing media, that’s transformative, that’s not negatively impacting the potential sales of the artist you’re sampling, if it’s not hurting them in some way, then you should be allowed to make your art and put it out there." [5] However, others feel that Girl Talk is violating the Fair Use Law and should be penalized.[6]


N.W.A. sampled a two-second guitar chord from Funkadelic’s “Get Off Your Ass and Jam” in which they altered the original work by deepening the chord and using it only in the background of their song, “100 Miles And Runnin”. N.W.A. did not ask for permission from Funkadelic nor did they pay compensation to Funkadelic’s record label, Bridgeport Music, yet the case was ruled not in violation of the copyright law when brought to court.[7]


3LAU, real name Justin Blau, is a mashup artist and DJ gaining increasing worldwide acclaim. Currently a junior at Washington University in St. Louis, 3LAU started performing on college campuses throughout the United States, but has increased his appeal and recently started making tours across parts of the world. According to his Soundcloud page where he shares his mashup music, 3LAU defines himself as a "progressive house producer and DJ by night." [8] He currently has 107,920 "Likes" on Facebook, a testament to his growing worldwide appeal. 3LAU's goal is to "[Combine] top-40 acapellas with instrumental producing signature mixes that transcend the traditional definition of a bootleg, seamlessly weaving tracks that breed dance floor filth." [8] 3LAU's new goal is to "release...original track[s] and embark on a headlining tour in the fall." [8] 3LAU has a background in piano, guitar, and drums, which he uses to add another element to his house progressive and dance music. 3LAU already has many achievements in his young musical career, including being named the "number one remix in Tiesto's “Work Hard, Play Hard” remix competition" [8] and a "number three overall Beatport release...." [8]

Kap Slap

Like 3LAU, Kap Slap, real name Jared Lucas, is also a college student-turned house progressive and dance music DJ. Lucas "is a 23 year old EDM DJ/Producer from Lexington, MA currently finishing out his last semester at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania." [9] Again like 3lau, Kap Slap has cultivated a fan following using social media sites, and currently has 63,209 "Likes" on Facebook.

Other mashup artists include Dj BC, Max Tannone, The Kleptones, Legion of Doom, Ludachrist, Easter Egg, The Hood Internet, and Super Mash Bros.


A vs B

This subgenre was the original intent of what a mashup was supposed to be. Such a type of mashup involved placing an a capella version of a song against the background of a different track in order to create a “third song.” An example of an A vs B mashup is "A Stroke of a Genie-us," a collaboration between The Strokes' "Hard to Explain" and Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle." However, many mashups today include many more than just 2 songs. For instance, Girl Talk usually uses 20-30 songs per track.

Version vs Version

The mixing of two different versions of the same song. Combining the original song with a cover of that same song is a common example. Additionally, a popular Version vs Version song is the combination of the same song in two different

Cut Up

Such a mashup involves using a part of a previously released work that includes spoken word, rather than solely singing. The term “cut up” evolves from novelist William S. Burroughs, in which he referred to his work as cut-ups, which includes literary cut-ups and tape recorder experiments.


While all mashups are considered remixes, not all remixes are considered mashups. A remix uses previously released songs in collaboration with their own original material, while a mashup does not include original material in a song. A remix is also considered to be a new version of an already recorded song. There are various ways to create a remix. One way includes not adding anything to the song, but instead changing elements of it. For instance, some dance club remixes simply extend the song by using a non-vocal section repeatedly. Another type of remix also does not involve any additions to the song, but emphasizing or bringing down, or even deleting other parts. For example, a remix that emphasizes the instrumental part of the song by moving the vocals to the background. Some remixes can involve these variations and also include new material as well.

Glitch Pop

Glitch Pop involves aspects from other types of mashups in that only aspects from the original song are utilized and no new material is added. However, what differentiates a Glitch Pop maship from other types of mashups is the focus on a part of a song that is usually undesirable, such as feedback. This type of mashup is a collaboration between Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and pop music. DSP is 'N Sync’s “Dirty Pop” is an example of this subgenre. [10]

Ethical Issues

Very similar to peer-to-peer(P2P), mash up artist have had to deal with the copyright policies of the material they are working with. Through disclaimers and warnings that state they no ownership over the copyrights of the original material, mash up artist try to promote experimentation with entertainment. Because of the rapid change in the music industry in the past decade, illegal downloading has effected how fans and music artist view mash ups. The main dilemma with mash up music falls upon personal ethical views of such fans and artists, as there is currently no set laws or regulations that prohibit and guide mash up artists in using song samples correctly, unless its a "tweaked" version of the original song. The original purpose of the copyrights and patents was to promote innovation by already informing the masses what has already been created. For some mash up artists, this purpose of innovating and developing new material produces an ethical grey area, which questions the ownership of a song by what percentage of a song represents the original.

For fans and music artist, there are the personal ethical opinions about song originality. One side of the scale would say mash ups and remixes lose the original concept of the songs that are used and will never be good. While the other side would believe that mash ups innovate, if done successfully, in creating new material from original classics and has makes it feel “fresh” and “new”, just like when the original was released.[11]

While copyright protects the rights to own and reproduce a creative work, it does not necessarily protect ideas, and it can be particularly hard to enforce in the digital age. This stems from the fact that the resources available for others to share and alter products are now numerous because of advances in digital technologies that the public can utilize. With hundreds of thousands of pieces of digital media in existence, it is simply impossible to regulate every piece of culture on every outlet. Essentially, everything that exists on the internet is a copy, which may blur the lines to internet users as to what is copyright infringement. The internet leaves resources free, and while this poses a threat to copyright laws, it also allows for innovation that could not take place without these digital technologies. The ability for artists to access and download MP3s helped birth the genre of mashup remixes. Intellectual property can become a significant issue in this realm depending on how similar the remixed piece is to the original pieces it encompasses and whether or not the original producer is profiting from the remixed song. In the lense of copyright, a song and the song it was sampled from are the same thing if they are a part of the same revenue stream back to the original artist who produced the unedited work. For example, when a DJ named Bauer sampled Hector “El Father” Delgado in his chart-topping song “The Harlem Shake,” Delgado pursued legal action against Bauer in hopes of getting some of the profit from the successful piece of culture he unknowingly contributed to. In the case of hip-hop group Das Racist, whose work relies heavily on samplings from songs they have not acquired permission to sample from, by releasing their mixtapes for free they have not been sued. Even though they are taking sound bites from artists who have not given them permission, the artists are not missing out on revenue so it is not in their best interest to sue Das Racist. [12]

Mashup artists struggle with the legality of their tracks as they use previously produced work to create their own. However, is this illegal if the mashup artists are only using a restricted length of time from each previously produced track?

Copyright Act of 1976

The Copyright Act of 1976 lists the rights of copyright holders in the United States, including several copyright provision amendments. It became a law in October 1976 and was implemented in January 1978. The law was created in order to account for the technological developments in society since the last copyright law in 1909, including television, motion picture, and radio. The Copyright Act of 1976

Mashup artists are permitted to remake an original song as long as the new song is substantially similar to the original song. In turn, the mashup artist must pay the original artist $0.94 for every copy of the song they sell for a profit.

Asking permission to use the song is not required, as long as payment is made.[13]

Fair Use Law

The Fair Use Law is one section of the Copyright Act of 1976 that explains the legal aspects of using parts of copyrighted works. Fair use is the idea that copyrighted material that has not been cleared for use may be usable if it’s inclusion provides a greater value to society than to that of the owner. The elements of fair use that need to be examined are the purpose behind the use of the copyrighted material, the way in which the copyrighted material is used, the size of the portion of the copyrighted piece used, and whether or not there is an economic effect for the original piece’s rights claim holders.

If a mashup song or another piece of culture is being considered for infringement, each of the factors of the Fair Use Law must be taken into consideration. There are 4 factors a piece of work being considered for infringement must go through:

  1. Purpose and character of the use
  2. Nature of the work being used
  3. Amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole
  4. Effect on the market for the original

List of Mashups

Below is a list of several mashups.

  • “Soul on Ice” by Ludachrist
  • “Birds” by Easter Egg
  • “One More Time To Pretend” by Immukization
  • “Cooler Bites the Dust” by DJ Gaston
  • "Play Your Part (Pt 1)" by Girl Talk
  • "Push It Like A Dog" by Soulwax
  • "Imagine A Jump" by DJ Mighty Mike
  • "Dynamite Pressure" by DJ Tripp
  • “Enter Telephone” by DJS From Mars[14]

See Also

Sampling (hip hop)


  1. Universal Mashup Album Cover 2.0:
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mashups: History, Legality, and Aesthetics, Christine Emily Boone, 2011
  3. Illegal Art: the Recording Label
  4. Girl Talk and Copyright Law: Is “Illegal Art” Really Illegal? [1]
  5. The QoC Interview: Girl Talk's Gregg Gillis [2]
  6. Steal This Hook? D.J. Skirts Copyright Law [3]
  7. Wikipedia: Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Soundcloud: 3LAU
  9. Soundcloud: Kap Slap
  10. Wikipedia: Notable mash up albums
  11. Rutger's School of Communication and Information, pg.24
  12. Cheney-Lippold, J. (2014, March 10, 12). Lecture: Copyright. Ann Arbor, MI.
  13. Wikipedia: Copyright Act of 1976 Fair use
  14. Best mashups of 2010

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