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).

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!