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Here’s a video history of the Amen break. It’s an interesting story and then it turns into an anti-copyright rant at the end which I’m not feeling.

I’m not sure how The Winstons all quitting music and getting nothing while countless artists and companies get rich using their recording is supposed to be some happy ending that everyone trying to make a living in music should be shooting for. “Hey kids, give up the copyright on your music and you too can bust out of the music business and wind up with a PHD in political science!”

Without some sort of success story for The Winstons I think all the example does is serve as a musician horror story: how you can make something that impacts millions of lives and still not be able to support yourself. Spooky!

Posted on - July 19, 2005 [at] 2:38 pm by Brad
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7 Comments on this post

stAllio! on History of the Amen break
July 20, 2005 at 1:05 pm

but would you even know who the winstons were if not for the ubiquity of the amen? i sure as hell wouldn’t. name one song of theirs other than “amen brother” or “color me father”, which was the A side of that single. bet you can’t. in fact, i could argue the exact opposite of what you say here: the winstons were a one-hit wonder and would have faded into total obscurity if the amen hadn’t been discovered and sampled so heavily by later generations. they might not have made any money off sampling licenses, but they gained one thing money can’t buy: immortality. (and they probably did make money off all those vinyl reissues of “amen brother” in the ’80s and ’90s, although some of those reissues were probably bootlegged.)

Brad on History of the Amen break
July 20, 2005 at 1:35 pm

stAllio, that would have definitely been a happier ending to the piece. If they had The Winstons saying, “hey, we were all giving up on music anyway, so it’s pretty cool to have kicked off careers and entire genres with a clip from a throwaway b-side! We may not have gotten paid, but we’re happy to be part of music history.”

But that’s not how it came off to me. I heard it as “So everyone made a lot of money but the sample source who all had to go work straight jobs and this somehow proves that being liberal with your copyright is a good move for your music career.” Ruh?

There are lots of great arguments for loosening up on copyright, this one just didn’t work for me.

Future Boy on History of the Amen break
July 20, 2005 at 2:50 pm

I don’t think he was saying that what happened to The Winstons makes for a happy ending. His beef was more with companies like the one that made the “jungle construction kit” who subsequently profit from sampled beats because of current copyright law. The Winston’s *could* have tried to get money from all those people who sampled their beat, but they didn’t.

His argument is not that “being liberal with your copyright is a good move for you music career”, it’s “being liberal with copyright is a good move for cultural richness”. He’s arguing that the strict control on copyright that we have today stifles the ability of people to recycle, reuse, and reinterpret their culture, which is ultimately a bad thing, and that there are people who are in the business of selling culture rather than creating it, which also isn’t so great.

stAllio! on History of the Amen break
July 20, 2005 at 2:55 pm

i guess an important question would be “when did richard spencer quit the music biz and go back to school?” also “when did they break up?” i can’t find the answer to that online. but to put it in perspective, the single came out in ’69, they never entered the charts again, and people didn’t really start sampling them until the ’80s. maybe all that sample money would’ve re-energized their careers, but it seems apparent to me that the winstons’ career was pretty much over (as a band, if not the solo careers of the individual members) before any of this happened. it’s not like the sampling ruined their careers and forced them to go work day jobs.

Anonymous on History of the Amen break
August 20, 2005 at 11:16 pm

The Greatest Loop in Music History!
Every single day someone is using it,for shure!
I give my praises to the DRUMMER!!
Wish i have that Drums…

Groove Box on History of the Amen break
August 25, 2005 at 8:30 pm

Hey guys. Thanks for the background. All i can say is why stay in that loop forever. Try making your own. I know it is immortal but come on!!! :) There are great systems out there. Multisample a real snare!! Sound dangerous huh? How about using somthing called BFD. Im sure you could rustle summin on that or how about
Guru. One thing in common is that a little UK company called FXpansion makes them. Or you could try 1 of a million ways. Man!, Lets have this conversation again baout some new breaks. Lets do it……bing badda bam ding badda etc.

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