This blog post is a general explainer of HitRecord and my involvement with it. If you want to see what HitRecord is about first hand, now is a great time to jump in because I am hosting the Play Along Weekly Music Remix Collaboration. The host picks a sample and the idea is for people to remix that sample any way they want before the Saturday deadline. Check out this week’s challenge video for more info.

HitRecord is a collaborative community made up of people from all around the world, working to make art together. This community is also a production company that has produced short films, books, records, a TV show, T-shirts, advertisements, socks, and plenty more. I joined the website when I was experimenting with animation, video collage, and other cool stuff I couldn’t do on my own. There was this incredible wealth of material to experiment with and a community of people who got enthused about having their work remixed and reinterpreted. It was refreshing to see, when the internet at large has such a takedown culture of infringement paranoia. Let me give some context, I was writing my dissertation at the time about remix culture and its clashes with copyright law. I was writing about fair use cases. I don’t condone freebooting by any means, but there are genuine fair use cases to be made for transformative remixes that don’t cannibalise the market for the original product. I won’t get into all that, but I was exploring HitRecord’s community ethic as a stark contrast to the copyright hardliner philosophy.

Once I dipped my toes in the water, I started to see that this is a great way to collaborate. HitRecord’s way of working is unique. When you sign up to the site, you don’t give up the rights to your own work. But anything that you upload may be remixed by any other person in the community. Once they upload a remix, this new version can go on to be built upon by lots of other people. You never lose the rights to your original work, but by uploading you agree to let the community make their own versions too. Some may be drastically transformative, some may not. But it is all encouraged, and once you see the results that can come from this kind of open process, things get very exciting. You’ll start remixing other people’s work. You’ll start to become a photographer even though you joined as a musician. You’ll start to become a writer even though you joined as an illustrator. You won’t be able to resist the urge to experiment and try new things when you see how this community buzzes.

I joined just as production was gearing up for Season 2 of the Emmy-award winning Hitrecord On TV (which you can now watch on Netflix). For me, this was a huge education. I got to see behind the magic curtain, to get an idea of the incredible amount of work and coordination that is required to make an ambitious project like this successful. But it was also exciting and a lot of fun. I got a window on all stages of the production process. And I got my hands dirty when it came to animation, video editing, motion graphics, and music production. In the last couple of years HitRecord has put a lot of work into the website itself, fine-tuning the functionality to serve the creative process in the most effective way possible. A lot of thought and effort has gone into it, with continual beta testing and callouts to the community for feedback. It feels like everything we build, we build together. Even if my part in this is very small, that’s a good feeling.

In this YouTube video, Joseph Gordon-Levitt explains the process to interviewer Sam Jones and initiates a collaboration by picking up a guitar and playing a couple of chords. An extract from the completed collaboration is dropped into the edit, I can be briefly seen playing a bit of ukulele (I’m in the top row, third box over when the screen shows twelve collaborators).

There are a couple of completed episodes of HitRecord On TV on YouTube to give you a better idea what I’m talking about. Here is the episode RE: Guns… it uses an instrumental piece I recorded as the closing credits and as interstitial music throughout the episode.

If you want to get involved, it may be a bit overwhelming at first. But there are helpful videos to show you the ropes and the community could not be more warm and welcoming. To get started, go to hitrecord.org