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Unfortunate Sonic Coincidences: The Lawsuits

Unfortunate Sonic Coincidences: The Lawsuits

Update: 2021-01-201
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Okay…let’s go over this one more time…there are just twelve notes in the western scale…the ways they can be combined to form pleasing sounds are finite in number…it’s a big number, but it’s still finite…


If we look at chords—which are combinations of three or more single notes played simultaneously—the number is smaller still…and there are only so many ways in which chords may be played in a sequence that makes any sense to the ear and the soul…


For example, there are dozens and dozens of hit songs with the same four chords at their root…e, b, c#, and a, played in that order…


If I haven’t lost you to music theory yet, all these songs are constructed on those chords… “With or Without You” from U2, Green Day’s “When I Come Around” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” from the Smashing Pumpkins, and The Offspring’s “Self-Esteem”…plus “Don’t Stop Believin'’” by Journey, “Barbie Girl” by Aqua, and John Denver, “Take Me Home Country Roads”…


In fact, there’s a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to what’s know as the “i-v-vi-iv progression”…it can be played in different keys (for example, “bullet with butterfly wings” is in b-flat while “self-esteem” is in c-major) and the chords can be ordered differently, but the common dna is there…this is just how our scale works and how songs are constructed…


Now listen to me: this is not a sign that any of these artists lack in creativity… no one is breaking any rules…and no one is ripping off anyone because no one can have exclusive ownership over a chord progression


However, there is a subset of people—lawyers, mostly—who believe that they should be able to sue artists for plagiarism if there’s any perceived similarity between two songs…the original composer needs to be compensated for this alleged theft…even the threat of a lawsuit and jury trial might be enough to scare up some settlement money…


This is insane…and the situation has been getting worse and worse…I think it’s time we deconstructed what’s happening with these crazy lawsuits that threaten to cripple all of music…

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

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Unfortunate Sonic Coincidences: The Lawsuits

Unfortunate Sonic Coincidences: The Lawsuits

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