If you’ve ever tried to search for Jimi Hendrix’s music on YouTube, you’ll run into a problem pretty fast. Oddly enough one of the greatest guitarists ever has very little music on the platform. For most other artists dozens of different versions of their songs can be found on YouTube, uploaded by either fans or official pages. Even older artist like Lead Belly, Elvis Presley, and Muddy Water just to name a few have countless different versions of their songs uploaded by many, many different people. Unfortunately Hendrix's work simply does not have this same overabundance. While the artist has both a Vevo and Topic page these pages consist mostly of behind the scenes videos, interviews and some live stuff as well. There is very little in the way of just plain, simple music uploaded. Another thing I found puzzling was the complete lack of any fan uploads. You would think so a monumental artist would have dozens of YouTube fans uploading his songs on their own channels, but there was not one to be found.
I just couldn’t believe that such a legend of an artist would have such a small footprint on YouTube and I was determined to get to the bottom of this. After scouring far and wide on the internet for an exhausting ten minutes I finally found it. The third link I clicked on (The Jimi Hendrix subreddit, r/jimihendrix) seemed to solve the mystery. Turns out the estate that owns the rights to Hendrix's music, Experience Hendrix, vigilantly removes all unlicensed versions of Hendrix's songs. Removing any unofficial song with a few tyrannical key strokes. On a side note, apparently Daily Motion still has quite a lot of Hendrix music and other content. For whatever reason Experience Hendrix haven’t been able to get it taken off.
With Spotify and Apple Music and a million other ways to get your music legally or illegally this really isn’t a big deal anymore, right? For us the consumer the fact that there is no unlicensed Hendrix music on YouTube probably doesn’t matter that much (like I said, you can get it from a million other places). However, the state of Hendrix's music on YouTube shows us how far the music industry has come and more importantly how much we still need to achieve. The fact that Jimi Hendrix’s – or any artists – music is on the internet at all is an amazing thing. You don’t have to travel long distances to see them in concert, you don’t have to empty your wallets for overpriced CDs that are probably gonna break sooner or later. No, as long as you have the internet you have access to every piece of music at your fingertips and that is an amazing feeling.
But back to Hendrix, though the music is legally owned by the estate in a world where getting music gets easier and easier everyday, such outdated laws hardly seem to matter. Music has really always belonged to the listeners. It belongs to us when we sing along to it or play our own cover to it. I guess it’s hard for me to see music as something that can be owned because so much of it is embedded into cultures all across America and the world, saying that someone owns it takes away from the collective power music has to shape people and events. When he stepped onto the stage of Woodstock in 1969, it was not Hendrix who owned his music neither was it his estate or any other individual. That music was shared by each and every person there. That’s what all good art is, something that can be shared and appreciated by everyone unconditionally. Finally, Hendrix has been dead for forty years, it’s just impossible to believe that such a symbol of love and goodwill would want his music controlled and owned by some sort of cooperation.
As music becomes more easily available to the public with things like Spotify and Apple Music being used more and more – and piracy becoming easier too – it will be interesting to see how firm of a grasp the Hendrix estate keeps on Jimi’s music. Maybe they’ll never change but we can hope that such a symbol of peace love and freedom will one day be available to all listeners and all creators in every way just as it should be.