The Blurred Line Between Influence and Copyright

(From left to right: Robin Thicke, Marvin Gaye, Pharrell Wiliams) (ISAAC BREKKEN/GETTY IMAGES; WIKIMEDIA COMMONS; JASON MERRITT/GETTY IMAGES)

(From left to right: Robin Thicke, Marvin Gaye and Pharrell Williams)

Pharrel Williams, Robin Thicke and rapper TI – real name, Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr. – were taken to court on Friday 6th March over the copyright infringement by Marvin Gaye’s family for the resemblances of the Marvin Gaye song ‘Got To Give It Up’. It was revealed that Pharrel Williams and Robin Thicke made over £3 million each as well as TI making over £700,000, from an overall profit of just over £10 million, with the rest of the money going to the record companies (Interscope, UMG Distribution and Star Trak). (Hollywood Reporter [1]). Of course, the artist’s say that they didn’t steal the song with Thicke even stating, “The record would have happened with or without me. None of it was my idea … I was drunk … [and] I’d say 75% of it was already done when I walked in.” (Hollywood Reporter [2]). However, it was today revealed that the Gaye family had won the ‘Blurred Lines’ case. The Gaye family are to be given money from record and live sales as well as damages caused from the copying of the ‘Got To Give It Up’ song written by Marin Gaye.

What this case shows is the blurred line between copying a song and getting inspiration form a song.

As artists are aware, it can be sometimes difficult to create a song from scratch. Sometimes you need some influence from music, this can be from listening to your favourite bands or going out and listening to different genres you have never heard. Sometimes a guitar riff or drumbeat can come to mind, when you are doing something irrelevant to music altogether. The song ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles was thought up by Sir Paul McCartney from a dream he’s had one morning. Sir Paul McCartney was interviewed on XFM and told the radio station that “It came to me in a dream…I just woke up one morning and it was in my head.” (Gigwise [3]). Another example of a court case was from Coldplay’s song ‘Viva La Vida’ which had allegedly copied “substantial original portions” from the song ‘If I Could Fly’ by Joe Satriani. Unlike the ‘Blurred lines’ case, Coldplay swore that they had never heard the song ‘If I Could Fly’. The court dismissed the case, with both parties having to reach an out of court financial settlement on their own terms. These examples of Sir Paul McCartney and Coldplay show that there doesn’t have to be a direct influence from music that’s already been made.

Nevertheless, it could still be argued that although Coldplay hadn’t even heard the song ‘If I could Fly’ and that Sir Paul McCartney had one morning dreamt about the song ‘Yesterday’, they both had influences from music but they hadn’t realised. A dream is made up of situations that happen in the day or what you’ve been thinking of recently. It is plausible to think that Sir Paul McCartney had heard music that day but didn’t consciously think about it, with the brain creating a song over night, that in a conscious state (the next morning) he’d put together to make sense. This could be the case with Coldplay as even though the band stated they hadn’t heard the song ‘If I could Fly’, they may have heard it unconsciously and thought they had created a new song but instead were influenced by a song similar to ‘If I Could Fly’. Although not completely similar, these two scenarios had different outcomes with one being taken to court and the other not. What this goes to show is that especially nowadays it’s a lot easier to be alleged of copyright infringement even when you think you created the song from scratch or with the ‘Blurred Lines’ case with an influence from music from the past.

A reason for creating songs that sound very similar to other songs is that other songs are easily accessible in studios. In a post written by the L.A. Times it says about how “Where once an artist could be inspired only by music he or she had already heard and processed, immediate access to millions of musical ideas is now a search engine away.” (LA times [4]). This happens all the time in todays world with the access to the Internet on most electronic devices such as; phones, computers and televisions. Nonetheless, there isn’t a court case made about ‘artistic theft’ everyday because these songs are so common and only a small portion makes it to the big time. “For every visionary are a hundred thieves, and the only difference is one celebrates his theft while the others claim ignorance.” (LA times [4])

This case with ‘Blurred Lines’ was really made for money purposes and not artistic theft. The reason it was made public was to boost sales.

“Even before the trial, the controversy over the similarities between “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give It Up” appears to have boosted sales of the Gaye song. The biggest week of digital sales on record for “Got to Give It Up” — during which it sold 6,300 copies — occurred in the second half of August 2013 — the same month that Thicke preemptively filed suit against the Gaye family.” (The Wrap[5])

(Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines VS Marvin Gaye – Got to Give it Up)

Reference URLs







The Big Christmas Gig at Upper Brown Street

This was the second event that I was, in part, doing the sound engineering for. With this event, there were ten people from my course who were doing the sound engineering, as well as setting up of equipment and organising what was going on behind stage.

For this event, my colleagues and I had to set up a gig for performing musicians from Leicester College at Upper Brown Street in Leicester. There were going to be a total of ten bands playing in the space of two and a half hours, so each of my colleagues including I were assigned a band to do the live sound engineering for.

Band List 1

The running order of bands on the night.

(The running order of bands on the night.)

The stage had been set up the day before for all the different instruments and musicians. This included a drum kit, electric guitars, bass guitars, a drum machine, a keyboard and a violin as well as vocals.

(The channel list and microphone list of what was used for the gig.)

(The channel list and microphone list of what was used for the gig.)

The Drums

The miking of the drums was set up the same way that we had practiced in the weeks before (See the blog: ‘Setting up the Drum Kit at Upper Brown Street’). The drum kit was placed on top of small stage at the back of the main stage in the centre. This was done to so that cables could be placed underneath to prevent any tripping over of cables on stage as well as neatness. (see channel list for what drum microphones were used).

Drum Kit Set Up

The drum kit set up with microphones

(The drum kit set up with microphones and monitor)

The Guitars

There were two guitar amps set up on either side of the stage. They were placed on stands as to direct the sound of the amplifiers to the audience as a whole (not just to the front row of the audience, if the amplifier was placed directly on the floor). The microphones used for the guitar amplifiers were Shure SM57’s. This is because Shure SM57’s are industry standard and are very versatile and sturdy, which is also why it was used for miking up the snare drum and toms for the drum kit. The Shure SM57’s were placed facing the speaker of the amp, with it aiming near the point between the cone and the speaker paper to give an even sound of the soft lower frequencies (from the paper) and the sharp higher frequencies (from the cone).

“…the SM57 is perfect for the task; its frequency response, originally tailored for speaking, matches the mid-range “voice” qualities of the guitar. It also has a compression effect on loud sounds – it squashes nicely…”


The guitar set up with amplifier and microphone

(The guitar set up with amplifier and microphone)

The Bass Guitar

The bass guitar amplifier was placed on the front left of the drum kit stage. The reason for this was to also prevent tripping hazards as well as tidiness on stage. The bass amp is different to guitar amps because the frequencies that are produced are low, which means they travel in every direction rather than primarily the way the speaker is facing, which is what happens with guitar amplifiers. It was with this reason that the bass amp was placed on the side of the drum stage, as to take up less room on the main stage. The bass guitar was plugged into a D.I. box before being plugged into the amplifier, which meant the bass amplifier didn’t need to be miked up.


There was three vocal microphone placed at the front on the left, the centre and the right of the stage. Although the microphones were placed more forward than to other instruments and microphones, the vocal microphones weren’t placed to the edge of the front of the stage. This was because they needed to be behind the front of house speakers as to reduce feedback.

“Positioning the main speakers well in front of the vocal mics and aimed so as to minimise the amount of sound bouncing back into the microphones will help…” (

The microphones used for the vocals were Shure SM58’s. Just as the Shure SM57 is industry standard, the Shure SM58 is even more so, and is considered the most popular used microphone in the world. The SM58’s have a bass roll off and brightened mid range to cut through the live sound mix. The microphone’s also have a cardioid polar pattern, which mean that it isolates the main sound source, minimising background noise and reducing the possibility of feedback.

Other instruments

As it states on the mic list, the rest of the instruments; keyboard, acoustic guitars and drum machine, were all D.I.’d. This meant there were no speakers needed as the instruments went to a Direct Inject box and then to the snake box. The exception was the violin which wasn’t DI’d as the instrument didn’t have a DI built into it, so instead an SM57 was used (which was placed in front of the drum kit until it was needed for the violinist).

The stage set up with all instruments and microphones in place before the gig began

(The stage set up with all instruments and microphones in place before the gig began)

Speakers and monitors

The monitors used were JBL monitors. The monitors were placed in front of each microphone stand so that each singer/musician could hear themselves or each other. Another reason for placing them there was so that each musician could have their own monitor to listen from, which creates more space on stage rather than just having a centre monitor and the whole band in the middle of the stage. As well as the front monitors there was also a drum monitor for the drummer, positioned to the left of the drummer so he/she could listen to specific instruments or vocals because the drums would be to loud to hear the monitors that were at the front of the stage.

One of the three vocal microphones set up with the monitor placed in front

(One of the three vocal microphones set up with the monitor placed in front)

The front of house speakers were made up of a three-way speaker system (low, mid and high loud speakers) on the left and right of the stage.

The loudspeaker system was adequate for the venue but not as good as, they should have been. As the venue is a theatre, half of the time the sound used is for acting and sound effects for theatre plays. For that use the loudspeaker system is passable, but for a live gig it wasn’t sufficient, which was partly to do with the types of speakers used and partly because of the positioning of them.

The front of house speakers were placed on the stacked on the floor on each side of the stage and facing slightly central to the audience. The tallest speaker (the smallest high end speakers) was directed at around the middle row of the audience, which meant the mid and high frequencies were directed to only half the audience. This created a sound that sounded better at the front of the theatre compared to the back of the theatre, which didn’t get as much detail and clarity from the mix. This intern created a mix, which was louder in the highs and mids than the low’s because from the position of the mixing desk (at the back of the theatre) these frequencies were attenuated due to the positioning of the front of house speakers.

What could have been done was use the headphones for monitoring the sound that was coming from the speakers, but at the time it sounded good.

In the recording from the sound recorder, the bass guitar was very low in the mix but compared to the sound from the video recording the bass wasn’t too quiet and was fairly audible (which admittedly wasn’t the best quality sound wise, but still did a good enough job for you to hear the bass guitar).

Mixing Desk Set Up 1Mixing Desk Set Up 2Mixing Desk Set Up 3

Analysis and Evaluation

When watching the video there are changes in the mix that I make. These are points in the live engineering where the biggest changes are made;

At 2:15 I turn down the guitar to make the vocals stand out as the guitar was to loud in the mix and was dominating the rest of the band.

At 4:35 I turn up the bass guitar, as that part of the song only has the bass guitar and drums playing behind the vocal, so the bass guitar needs to be made evident in the mix.

At 7:35 I turn up the left overhead, to make the cymbals more present in the mix to make ending louder as it’s the final part if the song.

At 9:00 I turn down the guitar as it is overpowering the vocals at the start of the song.

Below is the Video Recording

Below is the Audio Recording from the Mixing Desk

Upon Evaluation of the live engineering of the band, there are obvious factors that can be improved on for next time I do the engineering for a band. The main point that I noticed was that was using the gain knobs as faders. This is something that I was doing correctly at the beginning of each song, in terms of setting the gain as close to unity gain without it peaking. However using the gain is something that is done when doing a sound check to make sure there’s a good line level, but not something that should be done in the middle of a song. The line level is usually close to unity gain, so the gain is not the problem but instead the volume of sound coming out the speakers, which is controlled from the fader. From watching the video you can see that use the gain knob when I should use the fader, which is apparent with the vocals a lot of the time. The gain knob is also more sensitive than the fader so turning the vocals up or down is heard very obviously rather than a slight difference in the mix from using the fader.

Another criticism that can be made was not using the monitoring headphones to hear what the sound was like from the mixing desk and making differences based on that. The differences might be little, but it would make be able to hear parts that weren’t audible because of the room acoustics or crowd absorbing certain frequencies, which attenuate certain sounds.


On a whole, there wasn’t the need to change settings for the effects, such as the gates, equalisers or compressors. This was in part due to the band being last so the effects were all set to parameters that suited the instruments.

It helped that the band was the most experienced and best sounding of the night, not just in terms of sound but the way they played their instruments. An example of this was the singer using the vocal microphone close to his mouth to get the most out of the sound and correctly held it from the grip too. Other examples were that the guitars were tuned before the band went on as well as the drummer playing the drums hard and in the centre of the drums, where the microphones were aiming at, as to get a full sound from the kit.

Risk Assessment:

The Empire Graduation Ceremony

This was the first event that I was doing the sound engineering for in 2014. I was working with a colleague, Duane, from my course.

Duane and I were asked to be the sound engineers for the Leicester College graduation ceremony for Foundation Degree students. The venue was an old church that had been turned into a banqueting and conference hall. This meant that the architecture inside was still the same as a church but the difference was the pews had been removed for chairs and the apse (semi-circular end of the church, where the alter is) had been refurbished. For the event, the seating was placed similar to where there are usually pews as well as extra seating on one side (Picture 1). The attendance was expecting to be around 350 people.

The two main factors in terms of sound for the graduation ceremony were: having a microphone for the host of the ceremony and having background music play for the ceremony.

The Empire Equipment Placing

The equipment that we used were:

  • 2 – Bose L1 Model 1 Loudspeakers
  • 2 – Bose L1 Model 1 Bass Modules
  • 2 – ¼ Inch Jack to XLR cables
  • 2 – SpeakON cables
  • ¼ Inch Jack extension cable (male to female)
  • Four way socket extension lead
  • Masterplug 4 socket reel cable
  • Mic stand
  • 2 – XLR cables
  • 2 – SM58’s
  • Technics SL-PG380A CD player
  • Behringer Eurorack UB802 mixer
  • 5mm Twin Phono to Stereo Jack Cable

The speakers used were a pair of Bose L1 Model 1 Loudspeakers and a pair of Bose L1 Model 1 Bass Modules. The speakers delivered good, clear sound for the event with a maximum SPL of 115dB at 1 metre. The speakers could cope with an audience size of up to 500 people so there was headroom on the mixer.

The venue of event proved to have some issues. The first one was that the placement of the speakers were behind pillars, which meant that the noise level would be quieter for people sitting behind the pillars. Another issue was that of the acoustics of the venue. This had an effect on the noise level projected to the back of the church. As the speakers were placed on the floor the audience at the front could hear clearly but the people at the back could as well. In the event of turning the speakers up to make the sound audible at the back of the church the noise level would be too loud for the audience at the front.

As seen in most churches the sound system had speakers placed in front of each pillar above the audience to provide an equal sound around the whole church.

The set up of the equipment was relatively simple. Duane and I planned where the equipment was going to go, to make it as efficient and safe as possible. We set the speakers up to the side of the audience at the front of the seating.

(When describing placement of equipment and people, it is from the point of view as if facing the audience.)

As there was an area of the audience to the left side, we put the left speaker in-between the centre seated and left side seated audience and faced it to the back wall with no angle. To facilitate what the audience on the right heard we put the right speaker at angle facing the audience from the right front corner of the seating. (Picture 1)

(Right Speaker Placement and behind the right white curtain, where the mixing was done.)

(Right Speaker Placement and behind the right white curtain, where the mixing was done.)

Although it wasn’t the best location to be mixing from, sound checks were done before the event with the music and speech to make sure it was clear and loud enough for the audience at the back. A reason why the mixer had to be positioned to the side of the stage was that the cables could only reach a certain length, so it was the best place to mix from and not be seen as a distraction for the audience.

The Empire Sound System Diagram


To conclude, the sound levels were clear enough for the audience to hear. However, because of the placement of the speakers (being on the floor) the audience at the front had to deal with louder sound coming from the speakers in order for the audience at the back. It didn’t help that the columns of the church were attenuating the sound for those sat behind them. In this situation, it was best, what we did but if the speakers from the church were working it would have provided a better and clearer sound, with an even sound level across the venue.

Looking After the Most Important Tools for Live Sound Engineering

Everyone knows how important listening is in the music industry. Using your ears is what you do every day, whether you’re playing an instrument, mixing in a studio or indeed mixing for a live sound event. What is often forgotten is that your ears need to be looked after.

As anyone would agree, after playing your instrument (especially acoustic drums, which you aren’t able to turn down with a knob or fader), listening to loud music from speakers or going to a loud gig your hearing isn’t the same. What usually happens after dealing with loud exposure to noise is ringing in the ears, which is known as Tinnitus. If you hear ringing in your ears, which can be of any frequencies ranging from low, medium and high than it would be a good idea to so something about it.

“Once you have a little bit of hearing loss, especially noise-induced hearing loss, you are more vulnerable to more noise-induced hearing loss.” – Jovie Havard Strzelecki


Here are ways of preventing hearing loss or Tinnitus:

  1. When you’re not playing your instrument, mixing in the studio or going to live gigs try to minimise your exposure to loud noise. This can include: not listening to music on the journey home after exposing yourself to high levels of noise and having moments in the day that are quiet or silent. This will give your ears time to recover from the loud noise.
  1. Keep hydrated. Exposure to high noise levels for long periods of time causes fatigue. A good way to minimise fatigue is to drink plenty of water regularly and in small amounts. As well as hydration regular breaks from sound sources helps. This is evident when mixing in a studio for hours as you start hearing sounds, which aren’t there or think something sounds good when in fact it sounds completely different to what you first thought.
  1. Take a hearing test. It’s best to have a check up now so that further damage can be prevented. Going to an audiologist will help pinpoint if your hearing is bad or good and can show which frequencies most affect your ears. This will help when buying ear protection.
  1. If your working as a live sound engineer as a full time job than buying ear protection is invaluable. There are different types of hearing protection from headphones, in-earplugs and ear buds. Having custom moulded in-earplugs is the best way of having a comfortable noise reduction. Furthermore, custom moulded in-earplugs mean that there is more reduction in noise as it covers up the whole ear and not just part of it. For a full time working musician or live sound engineer, it is worth paying £500 for in-earplugs, as it will help in the years to come.

These points were gathered from –

Two Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming a Live Sound Engineer

People think to become a sound engineer you need to have a talent and know everything about audio straight away. This isn’t true.

From reading the blog from Nathan Lively ( called ‘How to Become a Sound Engineer’ the first thing he states is “The truth is anyone can be a sound engineer”.

There are two questions that you need to ask yourself if you want to become a sound engineer.

1. Why do I want to become a sound engineer?

2. What do I crave?

As quoted by Dave Swallow from his book, ‘How to Become a Sound Engineer’: “If you are after fame and fortune, you are in the wrong job. If you want to hang around and be friends with famous people, you are in the wrong job. If you want and crave credit for the work you are doing, you are in the wrong job.”

In my eyes being a live sound engineer is similar to being a football manager. If your team wins a game the players get the credit and if your team loses the manager gets the blame. So in this case if the gig goes well the musicians get the credit and if the show doesn’t go well then the sound engineer gets the blame.

Being a sound engineer doesn’t always including mixing front of house for a bands you like. As Nathan Lively describes “You’ll work with bands you dislike. You’ll work on corporate events with no music.” Having the interest of constantly going to live shows will decrease over time with Dave Swallow saying that he doesn’t even go to live shows anymore. What can be done is realising the job that you do can be hard and that once you have done it well, even if you don’t like it, is that you have achieved something that adds to your experience.    

An important part to becoming a good sound engineer is not so much the physical things you do i.e. working the mixing desk but instead the mental things you do. Mental things such as not being stressed and pride of work (as mentioned before) are important in the job. If things go wrong and don’t plan out the way they should then, as Dave Swallow explains “What are you going to do? Moan about it or get on with the job. I don’t see any point in getting stressed about it. It is what it is. These things happen and it’s part and parcel of being on the road. Things will go wrong. If you stress about them, you’re not really doing yourself any favours or anyone around you any favours, so just chill.”

Sound Design Live – Darryn De La Soul

Sound Design Live is a website dedicated to revealing the most helpful strategies and information for success in the audio industry. It is run by Nathan Lively who is a sound designer and engineer.

Many interesting posts are put up to help people out in the audio industry as well as interviews with professionals currently working in the live sound industry.

This is an audio interview that I found, which is very helpful, especially for up and coming live sound engineers.

Here’s a quick insight to the interviewee:

Darryn De La Soul is a live sound engineer who has over 10 years experience in the live sound industry. As well as sound engineering, she heads a resource centre and agency, which specialises in career management of live sound engineers.

This interview shows how she got to where she is today, the realities of starting as a live sound engineer, in addition to giving useful tips and advice.

Here are some of the quotes that were highlighted from the interview, which describes what being a live sound engineer is really like:

  • “ Nothing is ever advertised. Most of it is word of mouth” 
  • The only way to make money is in the live sound industry” 
  • “It’s a very lonely job. You’re on your own.” 
  • “People management is a massive part of this job. If you struggle with that, you will struggle with the job.”

Here is the whole SoundCloud interview. The points covered are in the first half of the interview up to around 22:30. So if you’re starting out with live sound engineering and have 20 minutes to spare, it’s well worth a listen.

Setting Up the live drum kit at Upper Brown Street

In the latest live music engineering lesson, the focus was on setting up and miking up a drum kit. Miking up and sound checking a drum kit is one of the most time consuming parts to engineering a live band.

A key part that was learnt from the lesson was organisation of time; with miking up the drum kit efficiently and safely.

Here are some points that I learnt about miking the drum kit. Some of them I already new, but were made a lot more obvious in a live sound situation.

  • The Bass drum mic should be close to the bass drum, as to get a better sound and for the stand to take up as less a room a room as possible.


  • The hi-hat microphone should be a condenser rather than a dynamic microphone and should face the opposite end to where the drum is sitting of the hi-hat as to capture a more crisp sound, when the hi-hat opens and closes.


  • The overhead microphones should be aiming at the cymbals rather than capturing the whole drum kit.


  • The microphone cables should not be strained at any point, as it is a safety hazard. They instead should be wrapped around the mic stands, looped neatly near the mic stands, and slack from the mic stand to the power source as to create a safer and more efficient way of using the microphones.


Sound check at The Donkey

The Donkey is a small pub around the south of Leicester. The pub has only one room where the bar is as well as the stage, which takes up about a quarter of the room itself.

The gig was set to start at 9:00pm so the sound check was started at 7:00pm. The gig consisted of three acts. The opening act was that of an acoustic guitar player singing, then a two-piece band with one playing an electro-acoustic guitar as well as singing and the other playing a cello. The headlining band was a five-piece folk band, which had lead singer (playing a bouzouki and a violin) two backing singers (one playing an electro-acoustic guitar and the other playing an electric keyboard), a drummer and a bassist.

As the engineer it’s helpful to known who is playing as microphones and amps can be set-up before the bands arrive. In this case there were three vocalists so three microphones were placed at the front of the stage.

The first to be sound checked was the headlining band, which arrived first to the venue. The sound engineer greeted them and introduced himself with a smile on his face. This was shown as an example of how to make a good first impression with the performers. It’s important to do this because as the sound engineer you want to get along with the performers so that sound checking becomes easier for both parties. In addition to introducing yourself, there’s also the case of talking and making sure everything is good for the performer whilst sound checking to make sure everything is just as the performer wants so they are comfortable and sound the best they can.

One thing that is essential when sound checking is the speed at which it is done. Having two hours before the doors open can go by quickly, so making sure everything is working and sounding good with time to spare makes running the sound a lot easier. The speed at which the sound check is done can be dependent on the band, with a more experienced and professional band knowing what they’re doing and knowing how they should sound compared to an amateur band, which might not know how things work.

The Stage before set up

The Stage before set up

The Allen & Heath PA20 mixing desk

The Allen & Heath PA20 mixing desk

The dbx DriveRack PX and  Chevon Research A3000 P.A. Power Amp

The dbx DriveRack PX and
Chevon Research A3000 P.A. Power Amp

3k Logic system X15 Mark 2 (stage right)

3k Logic system X15 Mark 2 (stage right)

3k Logic system X15 Mark 2 (stage left)

3k Logic system X15 Mark 2 (stage left)

Stage set up and ready

Stage set up and ready

WBL = 4 Hours

Work Based Learning Theme

The theme I have chosen for work-based learning is live sound. A specific part of the live sound industry that will be looked in to in detail will be live sound engineering.

One reason for choosing this topic is that there are many opportunities to be found especially in cities like Leicester. These opportunities are not necessarily narrowed down to one type of live performance at a certain venue, for example a rock band playing at a pub.

Live sound engineering can cover many parts of the live sound industry, with different performances and venues to be engineered.

Different performances can include:

Music performance, spoken word, theatrical performance and dance performance.

Different venues can include:

Pubs, bars, clubs, halls, and churches.

With this being stated, further detail will be looked into as to what specific opportunities are available in the coming couple of months around Leicester and Rutland.