Grey Tuesday, online cultural activism and the mash–up of music and politics

Sam Howard–Spink


In 2003, a little–known DJ by the name of Danger Mouse created a "mash–up" album that remixed the music of the Beatles’ White Album and hiphop star Jay–Z’s Black Album to produce a new record called The Grey Album. The swift and draconian legal reaction to the online dissemination of this technically illegal but culturally fascinating artifact gave rise to a "day of digital civil disobedience," organized by music activism group Downhill Battle. Grey Tuesday, as the day of action was known, marks a potentially new site for a blend of online political and cultural activism in the highly charged realm of intellectual property expansionism. This paper examines emergent examples of musical and Internet activism including a detailed look at Grey Tuesday itself; considers the cultural significance of the mash–up genre and the value of the musical "amateur;" and concludes with a brief consideration of "semiotic democracy" and the new mix — or, if you will, mash–up — of culture and politics that has emerged as a consequence of the rise of digital networks.

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