BY JACQUELINE BONOLA
In the wake of the release of David Bowie’s “No Plan” EP, a question can be asked that can be applied to many musicians that are no longer with us. Is it right for an artist’s music to be released after his or her passing? What is the morality of that? Or the sense of respect?
It is a violation of an artist’s life to meddle with private works that were left unreleased. It could be said that maybe the artist did not want to release that music and wanted it to be left private. The artist already suffers tremendously from invasions of privacy. Record labels are always trying to find ways to exploit an artist and sometimes the artist’s unreleased music is still under contract. So, that presents the legal issue of who owns the rights to the music.
As a whole, the artist loses their privacy rights and, even if they come up with music that they do not want to release, it is going to be released anyway. Artists then become above the regular person and any creation they make is not private. It is then released to the whole world without the artist having any say in the matter.
So much music from the past and today is written based on raw emotion. Imagine writing a private entry in your journal, something you wanted to be kept secret from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, since you are under contract, that work could be used to make some money. This seems messed up.
As music fans, we should be concerned with where the profit of a “new” David Bowie, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix or 2Pac album is going. It seems like record labels are pushing unreleased music as a cash grab. However, sometimes there are exceptions and this music is released with much less cynical intent.
Sometimes, in a band where one artist has passed away, the remaining band members will release the finished (or unfinished) album in their memory. When Bradley Nowell of Sublime passed away, their self-titled album “Sublime” came out two months after. The reason behind the release was so that Nowell’s son would have money to go to a good school.
In Bowie’s case it actually seems to all be part of his plan. Anything that involves Bowie is planned. David Bowie was always the kind of artist that wanted complete control over whatever was released under his name. Bowie was even aware that his death was approaching and wrote music based off it. So, perhaps this EP is part of something bigger or is the real final chapter of his career instead of “Blackstar” from last year. Also, keep in mind that Bowie’s estate belongs to his family, so a lot of the profit from “No Plan” will go to them.
In some cases, it is safe to say that it is wrong to release the music of someone who has passed away. There are circumstances in which the person has left a will specifying who would be the beneficiary of all the money that they made and will continue to make. Bowie and Nowell are just a few examples that it is more than just a money-making scheme at times, but the true intentions of such music being released are still up for debate amongst music fans.