Monday, July 4, 2011

"It's Our Fight" by...Steve Jablonsky???

Since the release of Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, I've been getting inundated with emails from people telling me, "Steve Jablonsky stole your music" and that, "the new Transformers score totally ripped off Mind Heist!" So in an effort to lay the matter to rest, I'm going to break this down once and only once. For those who are unfamiliar with "Mind Heist" or the cue "It's Our Fight" from the Transformers 3 score, listen to the links below to hear what we're talking about (they are already cued up to the relevant sections - a couple of minutes of listening should suffice).


1. Zack Hemsey - "Mind Heist"


2. Steve Jablonsky - "It's Our Fight"


Now, let me start by saying that no one owns a genre or style of composition. Equally, Danny Elfman doesn't have a copyright in pizzicato playing techniques, and Hans Zimmer doesn't own the rights to specific chord progressions or pulsing staccato strings. In the same way, I don't possess the exclusive right to incorporate massive low stabs. So, a piece of music that contains deep low stabs does not constitute copyright infringement of "Mind Heist" (there were deep low stabs before "Mind Heist" and there will be deep low stabs afterwards). But make no mistake, "It's Our Fight" would appear to be a rip-off of "Mind Heist" (at least, much of the 6-minute track would seem to be). Technically speaking, I suppose it's possible that this is a coincidence. I can't factually state that Jablonsky knowingly imitated my song, but when I listen to the above selections, the similarities are certainly extreme.


This much should be obvious to anyone with ears. But for those who don't hear it, don't panic - just stop reading and we thank you for playing. To the rest of you, the following is the sequence of reactions I had to this:


1. Flattery - What an honor to have a major feature film composer be inspired by my work. I've been unknown for the majority of my career, and Steve Jablonsky "borrowing" from me is a testament to the caliber of music I create.


2. Pride - Even with a Hollywood film music budget, live orchestra elements, what I assume was a typical production team (assistants, orchestrators, engineers, etc), and a gifted composer's best attempt at writing my song sideways, the result is a blatant effort that falls short of "Mind Heist". Add to that the fact that I don't have any assistants at all (let alone the army that is customary on a feature film score), nor the privilege of working with a live orchestra…and still, "Mind Heist" beats this rip-off to death like a psychotic serial killer convinced the murder being committed is going to save the planet.


3. Outrage - Someone is selling a "Mind Heist" impostor on iTunes as part of the contents of the Transformers 3 score…a film whose composer received a sizable fee to deliver original music, and a film with major studio backing and PR (which ultimately drives soundtrack sales), and whose eventual physical CD release will have label distribution. What is wrong with this picture? I'm an independent artist, with no record label or studio backing. My albums don't go platinum, and I don't make anywhere near the money of a successful feature film composer. Now to be fair, I'm not interested in selling my soul to make a dollar, and being independent has been a conscious decision on my part, one which I have never regretted for a second. But being an independent artist is not a license to be taken advantage of and exploited…and guess what Steve, I don't work for you - if you need my help composing a score, give me a call and ask for it. But how dare you steal from me and then profit from it.


4. Pity - Ripping off temp music is an unfortunate reality found in many aspects of the music business. Equally unfortunate is that so many composers and artists lack both originality and the integrity necessary to refuse to become leeches. In the case of Transformers 3, I have no idea if a directive to rip off "Mind Heist" was issued by someone. Maybe my song was temped in by the director or producers and forcibly shoved on Jablonsky, and maybe Jablonsky even protested the instruction to rip it off…or maybe Jablonsky just thought "hey, Mind Heist would sound really good here, lets just copy that and change a couple of notes". Either way, Steve - I feel sorry for you.


At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with being influenced by another artist or composer, and in truth, such influence is unavoidable. When it comes to any creative endeavor, one's environment and the extent of their exposure to other creative works influences their own creativity. But there is a line between influence and plagiarism, and as to whether "It's Our Fight" crossed it, I pose the question to Jablonsky - what says you Steve?


All I can say is, if stealing someone else's music becomes necessary to make a paycheck, then making music is no longer for me. And if my evolution as an artist should get to a point where I am incapable of thinking for myself, and becoming a parasite is the only means through which I can create worthwhile music, then my existence as an artist will have come to an end. I'm not interested in being anyone other than me. But Steve, you should check out my new album "The Way" - it might prove useful in your future scores!

39 comments:

  1. I just can't believe how one can be such a shameless asshole.

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  2. Oh, I can understand your feelings, man! I've had the same situation! I hope, this disgraceful stuff just makes better FOR YOU at the end! You're really talented, so the History will place everyone in their places!
    B cool!
    Colleague from Russia.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rikv9fnNh_M

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  3. The most ridiculous aspect of this is the inability to spread this message and handle it legally, given your status as an independent artist.

    You have proven yourself already as a composer, albeit on a smaller scale with trailer music; I wonder if you have been deterred from wider-scale projects on the basis of compromise - you have already customized music at the request of another production company, so I would think you would have (or will soon have) the opportunity of composing for a full-length feature with the same conditions. This would put you in a position where you are less likely to be taken advantage of as an artist, along with the other benefits of a higher profile, higher profit, further career opportunities, etc.

    So what is it that maintains your desire to remain independent? The autonomy? The freedom to pursue your own creative direction? Being unbounded by numerous legalities not set on your own terms? Obviously I don't know. But I would think that by now, you should have the power to set several of these parameters, thereby preserving your creativity while reaping the aforementioned benefits (and ways to get at artists mimicking your style and failing miserably). I hope you do manage to find a career in film that provides the green grass on both sides of the fence, because you deserve it.

    Sorry for the essay, but I'm a fan and hope for your recognition and success, especially in instances such as this one.

    -G

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  4. Erm, surely with Inception being such a big film, this will be picked up on, no?

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  5. Honestly, while I agree the structure of the jablonsky song is heavily inspired by yours Jack and it's like a 100 % copy paste...

    But We can also agree that your song is not THAT original to justify a comment like "Even with a Hollywood film music budget, live orchestra elements, what I assume was a typical production team (assistants, orchestrators, engineers, etc), and a gifted composer's best attempt at writing my song sideways, the result is a blatant effort that falls short of "Mind Heist""

    ... I mean, all your staccato riffs are heavily inspired by Hans Zimmer batman begins / da vinci code. These sort of strings staccato riffs have been heavily used these last 10 years. Your main melody is also not THAT amazing. IT sounds like it is heavily inspired by Mediaventures music.

    In short, "Mind Heist" is a typical trailer music we've heard 10000 times before.

    The only reason this song has got so famous is that it has been chosen as official trailer music for INCEPTION, one of the most anticipated movie of the 21 th century...

    Did Hans Zimmer wrote on his blog : "wow you totally plagiarized my batman begins strings riffs in your mind heist song" ? nooooo....

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  6. @G - Yes, complete autonomy is the primary reason. I appreciate what you had to say…

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  7. @ Alex - Like I said, there is a difference between influence and plagiarism. Regarding staccato riffs, I suggest you re-read paragraph 2. Never claimed my melody was "THAT amazing"…simply said when comparing the two works, "Mind Heist" was superior (in my opinion). I love Hans Zimmer, and I do think his music has influenced me (along with many others), but I was not aware I ever copied a theme from him.

    In general though, you seem to miss the point - it's not a question of whose music is better. You may feel "Mind Heist" is typical, or even the worst music ever made, but that is irrelevant to the issue at hand. The issue is when the line gets crossed between influence and plagiarism. If you feel it didn't get crossed, then so be it.

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  8. Steve creates some amazing original music, I love the Transformers scores. When T3 came out I was hoping for some more original music but what I got was Mind Heist. I love Mind Heist but what makes a film for me is the soundtrack and during that scene all I could see was Inception. It kind of ruined the film for me because I had heard it many times before. You definitly deserve credit for this!

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  9. just one thing that might help make sense of this, [but probably won't lessen the sting at all, I've had my artwork appropriated recently, too. but in my case it was a character redesign at DC comics, so 1) I don't own any IP, and 2) I put my work out in public, essentially for the opportunity to get this particular character redesigned, which I never thought would happen] in an interview a while back, Wally Pfister said Christopher Nolan loves Michael Bay's movies [ http://www.slashfilm.com/christopher-nolan-loves-watching-michael-bay-movies/ ], and Bay has a semi well known complex about his work
    [when working with Ed Harris on the rock, he would scream and shout at people, then ask him "is that how Cameron did it?" so he clearly wants to be treated as an equal]
    so when the guy says that his friend [considered one of the best directors working today] loves his movies, I'm sure bay would have said "add a touch of that inception score! maybe Nolan will like that!"
    that said, I saw the movie yesterday, and the punches seemed timed to the music, I know that ILM's renderfarms were at 1 point all working on only Transformers 3 [ http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/transformers-dark-moons-powerful-visual-208967 ] so it's conceivable that Bay could have asked for movement to be timed with what Bay and by proxy Jablonski thought was an 'homage'.
    however ifthat is true, there may have been a case of animators using your song as a 'temp' track.
    its murky, but maybe this will help ease any pain: a man who is very used to getting his way as a director asked his composer to 'homage' another film's music to gain favour with another director.

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  10. so when *a* guy says that his friend [considered one of the best directors working today] loves his movies, I'm sure bay would have said "add a touch of that inception score! maybe Nolan will like that!"
    typo.

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  11. Right on, Zack. Like you said, there's no way to prove Steve did it knowingly but the similarities are indisputable.

    During that scene of the film, I leaned over to my fiance and said, "Is this a Transformers score or an Inception/Dark Knight hybrid?"

    I love Steve's work on the first two TF films, but your excellent composition was the very first thing I thought of when I heard the track beneath all of the big booms and bangs of the action on screen. And I know for a fact that others have said the same thing to me as well, so rest assured that your work is still prevalent in the minds of audiences.

    For what its worth, it was "Mind Heist" that made the Inception trailer second-to-none. And I'll bet that people remember that long, long after they remember the score for Transformers.

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  12. Sorry Zack but I completely disagree. To me it sounds like Steve composed the track "Battle", variated it, ended up looking like yours, and ended up like this. The beats at minute 0:57 have been used for the past mvoies, and as I said the track is a variated Battle. TO me this is all a misunfortunate coincdence.

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  13. There are some similarities in both tracks, but i woulnd't call it a plagiarism. Like other blogger said before, we can find similarity of you work in work of Hans Zimmer. This can't be avoided at all time. But i hope YOU guys clear the air after some disscusion.

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  14. I think a lot of you naysayers are missing the boat on debating these tracks. It's not the area where the low stabs are that is of question. As Zack himself mentioned, no one owns exclusive rights to a particular instrumentation or technique.

    The point of contention is the 16-bar melodic climax as demonstrated in this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ig9vfAAGgQ

    Now let's look at the similarities:

    - Same key signature
    - Nearly the same tempo
    - Identical 16-bar structure
    - Nearly identical chord progressions with some variations on major/minor relatives (though if you listen to Hemsey's 'Birth Of An Idea', the similarities are even more prominent)
    - Similar instrumentation for the melodic lead
    - Identical drum patterns for the 2nd stanza
    ** Nearly identical melody **

    Many people commenting are failing to look beyond the overall ambience & instrumentation of the track. Whether the track "sounds like Hans Zimmer" isn't the debate. It's the fact that the songs are very much the same in regards to technical aspects & music theory. If you needed this spelled out to you (or if you still don't see the similarity), music isn't your forte.

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  15. Zack's "Mind Heist" = Awesome
    Steve's "It's Our Fight" = Also Awesome

    I COULD start an argument that John Williams (yes, THAT John Williams) plagiarised Philip Glass in "Going to School" in Memoirs of a Geisha. But why? I prefer to think of this recycling of music as "paying homage" to the original composer's work rather than a rip-off. Because in the end, I always find that I enjoy both the original and the "rip-off".

    Keep your music coming, Zack. I'll definetely still be listening.

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  16. Hey Zack

    it's very clear to me that your piece was used as temp and the director/producers had a case of 'temp love' (or in this case, 'temp fever'). Under your point 4 ('Pity'), from my experience it can be impossible to get away from the temp sometimes and it has minimal to do with originality or artistic integrity and more to do with just getting the damn job done under severe time pressures. Not excusing it as it's clearly a very 'un-artful' and obvious ripoff (he could have at least changed key and added some variations in the accompaniment patterns and orchestration) but just explaining it.

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  17. Hi Zack,
    You need to sue. Get this taken care of. Look at Tyler Bates ripping off Goldenthal on 300. That got handled. You should do the same.

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  18. Hey Zack,

    I cannot understand why Mr. Jablonsky would do that. I'm a fan of him, and this is just... strange.

    I even made a mix of the two tracks to reassure myself, and it is frightening. You may want to have a listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC-HtQqQYgI

    Anyways, I hope you get this matter resolved.

    Good luck!

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  19. We're all here in support of you Zack and ultimately isn't that what it's all about? The people who appreciate and listen to your work and the work of others know what's going on here.

    As for the average movie go-er I have no doubt they'll pick up on it as well. Your work on Inception and others like The Town stand alone and that's something that depite the old saying "The good artists immitate - the great artists steal" that they'll never be able to take away from you.

    I would also caution against getting nasty with fellow artists or Studios (not that they don't deserve it - they DO) however it might blow back negatively for your career prospects.

    I love your work and your compositions, it would be a true shame to see you put to one side, because of personal feuds with certain movers and shakers in the film/music industry.

    Take action - but make sure you go after them in the right way so as it doesn't come back to bite you in the ass.

    -Tom from Aus

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  20. Your version is 10,000 times better Zach. Very impressed and as a Steve Jablonsky fan (or at least former fan) I'm pretty disappointed in him.

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  21. You guys saying, it is all ok to appreciate the two tracks and that recycling music is ok, is just boncers...yes steve jablonsky is a gifted composer and his stuff is an inspiration to young composers like me, but in our economic trouble, money is a huge aspect of this industry and Zack deserves something for his track to be so heavily used.

    This sort of thing is crazy if it is brushed a side as the hollywood film scene will become more and more of a monopoly with big names dominating to the scores.

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  22. I understand everyone's concern in this issue, but no matter what, I love both composers. Mind Heist is as good as It's Our Fight, IMO. I don't really care if the music I listen to is considered a rip-off as long as I like it, which I really do in this case. I just love TF3 soundtrack (the one by Steve) and if I were to feel concerned about the originality of it, I would only be unhappy about the composer himself. I don't know if Steve was asked to 'make a Mind Heist rip-off' or if he did that on his own will, but I don't really care. Of course, this sounds ignorant, but as long as I am not the composer, but just a regular guy who likes modern classics, I couldn't care less.
    Either way, I love Steve's and Zack's soundtracks.

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  23. I don't know where the plagiarism line is crossed, but the two songs do sound quite similar. I'm hoping to hear Jablonsky's side of the story - maybe there's an explanation other than "rip off".

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  24. Problem is...this genre of scoring/trailers is now in 2011 so hopelessly derivative and inbred that it would be easy for most people to mistake any number of these mediaventures-style 4/4 100bpm products for one another.

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  25. I do believe that a lot of score composers do those ripping-off things but this one is too obvious. I recognized it right away when I saw the movie in the cinema. I couldn't imagine how you would feel if you could see TF3 in cinema before your friends told you. Steve Jablonsky really should be sued. I hope that can keep those composers from doing these shameful things.

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  26. Hey man don't let it get to you. Keep doing what you do. I was once a "professional" musician and every experience I had with the industry told me that it's all a bunch of manipulative bullshit. Just think of this plagiarism (or whatever it really is, if it really is) as one of the last dying breaths of the corporate stronghold over music. Indie artists like yourself will come out on top in the end. Like I said, keep at it and people like you and I will remain standing and laughing at these last pathetic attempts.

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  27. I like "It's our fight," and I definitely like Mind Heist (It's cause I love Inception), but I will say that they do sound definitely the say. It's our fight sounds 95% same (Both of the songs are very epic!).

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  28. But Mind Heist is definitely better. It's our fight is like a lame, flat version of Mind Heist.

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  29. Yes, there is a certain clear line in inspiration between Hans Zimmer's scores for Batman Begins and others right to Mind Heist. But, clearly the specific ways that Zack uses those tools in Mind Heist have then in turn both inspired other composers (such as Riptide Music's "World Collapsing", which both sounds clearly evocative of Mind Heist and appropriates title imagery from Inception), and prompted blatant ripoffs, like the music from Transformers. I wouldn't sue, but I'd make a call or two for sure.

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  30. Wow! This is a good thread and blog post. The music is a rip-off. I can promise, from being in the business myself, the industry will ask composer's to make replica's.

    I know that I pride myself on writing original sound the way Zack does, so I understand the frustration.

    Finally, I disagree with some of the angry posters, for the pure fact that Mind Heist was not only a great trailer song but just a GREAT song in general. I rate it as one of my top 5 songs I listened to in 2011.

    Give credit where credit is due - - - - -

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  31. That Snow White "World Collapsing" track is an unbelievable rip off when it kicks in half way, I'd go all lawyer up on their asses. So blatant.

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  32. I think it is okay to get ideas from other music for your music (like me). But, you can't just make a rip off that sounds 77% just like the other one! And a really lame one at that!

    If you are going to make a rip off, keep it to yourself and friends. And BTW, make sure it's good!!!

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  33. Surely Media Ventures have offered you a job by now Zack ;-)

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  34. I preferred Mind Heist to Zimmer's actual Inception score. More interesting to my ears.

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  35. Zack, I am a big fan of you, and have listened to Mind Heist close to 1000 times, but after listening "It's Our Fight" I fail to notice it's a rip off of Mind Heist. As a matter of fact, that song will barely get 10 or so plays in my player. All I notice is some minor similarities.

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    Replies
    1. I guess the 3rd paragraph applies to you: "for those who don't hear it, don't panic - just stop reading and we thank you for playing"

      The similarity seems obvious to me. Maybe you don't realize the article is referring to only a specific section of It's Our Fight. It's not the whole track. 0:57 - 2:17 of the track sounds pretty blatantly Mind Heisty.

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  36. Simply pathetic. But yeah, it's probably because of your mindset of "I don't wanna sell my soul to make a dollar" that they don't ask your music, or even help.
    You are a genius, and your music is simply a masterpiece. That is the reality and the truth.

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  37. It's our fight sounds like it should be in the video game punch out. Steve probably puts more effort into taking a dump than composing. Blatant rip off of Mind Heist. Hell, Ive made songs using Propellerhead's Reason that have more creativity than that shit..... (Don't worry, I'm using Logic Pro X now)

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