100 artists unknowingly helped a producer plagiarize another band’s songs, and be part of Kickstarter campaign

From The Current:

A Twin Cities-based recording engineer has revealed that his album, which was released under the name To My Bees Knees and included contributions from 100 local musicians, was almost entirely composed of songs he had plagiarized from the Iowa City band Burn Disco Burn.

“It’s with my greatest heartfelt apologies that I send out this letter,” engineer Tom Smouse wrote yesterday, addressing the dozens of artists who contributed to his album in an email. “All of you had a part in the making and release of the album To My Bees Knees back in 2009-2011. You donated your time and efforts to reproduce an album of material that ultimately, I passed off as my own. What I did not tell you at the time is that I did not write those songs or lyrics.”

Smouse says he only wrote one of the tracks on To My Bees Knees, a hidden track called “Goodbye’s Never Change.” The rest of the album’s songs were lifted from Burn Disco Burn’s album Vegas Lit Places, which Smouse mixed for them back in 2002.

“We were shocked, saddened, and pissed off to discover that Tom Smouse had passed our music off as his own,” the members of Burn Disco Burn said in a statement today. “These feelings only intensified as we realized the scope of the project and just how many musicians and professionals were unwittingly involved. Make no mistake, this was not a case of someone building a song or two around a few of our lyrics or chord progressions; every song on the release was written by Burn Disco Burn — line for line, chord for chord. You can even hear some of our original performances on the recordings. As you can imagine, this all adds up to a massive artistic violation, as well as an unequivocal case of copyright infringement that we are taking very seriously.”

Smouse began piecing together the To My Bees Knees project in 2009, and in early 2011 he launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $5,000. The project included contributions from dozens of musicians across the local indie scene, including Chris Koza, Alicia Wiley, Ryan Paul Plewacki, and members of bands like Pert Near Sandstone and the New Standards. According to the Kickstarter pitch, 100 musicians were involved in some aspect of the recording project, and they all believed that they were helping Smouse produce original material.

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