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Girl Talk's Album Sampled Over 350 Copyrighted Songs—Which Then Saw Sales Bumps

A recent study found that Gregg Gillis's sample-based Girl Talk project, which has been criticized for bending fair use laws, actually benefitted the artists whose songs he used to make his own music.

Girl Talk's Album Sampled Over 350 Copyrighted Songs--Which Then Saw Sales Bumps
[Photo Mash by Joel Arbaje for Fast Company]

When you listen to a Girl Talk album, you are also listening to literally hundreds of other albums. After all, Gregg Gillis's modestly monikered project involves isolating and layering samples of popular songs on top of one another in bold new combinations. It's a musical chemistry experiment that has proved a lightning rod for copyright controversy since Gillis began touring as Girl Talk last decade. Rather than robbing money out of the sampled artists' pockets, however, new research shows that Gillis's sampling seems to have put some back in.

In a study conducted by Texas Judicial Law Clerk W. Michael Schuster, it was revealed that many of the songs used as pastiche on Girl Talk's All Day in 2010 have since enjoyed a rise in sales. The study looked at more than 350 of the copyrighted songs sampled on the album and found—"to a 92.5% degree of statistical significance"—that they sold better in the year after the album was released than than they did in the year before.

It's easy to see how that might be the case. Girl Talk albums are part survey of contemporary rap and pop hits, and part nostalgia trips. Fans can dig up a list of samples online, and use it as a makeshift catalog to shop on iTunes for songs they just discovered or forgotten gems now reinvigorated. If this is indeed happening as the study suggests, it lends credence to Girl Talk as a celebration and exploration of music, rather than an exploitation of it. Based on his findings, Schuster seems to agree, suggesting that perhaps it's time for an "objective financial review of fair use and the market effect."

H/t to Pitchfork