You wouldn’t record an entire 3.5-hour concert by the world’s most famous and successful recording artist and post it on Tik Tok for the whole world to see for free. Oh, you would? And so would millions of people every night for months on end? Two things are eternal about the music industry: it is mired in corporate greed and it evolves at a painfully slow pace to at once match the needs of consumers and its producers. Mixed by Erry is an Italian-language Netflix Original by Sydney Sibilia based on a true story that shines a spotlight on the absurdity of the music industry and its anti-piracy tactics.
When Erry (Luigi D’Oriano) was a kid, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of music. He was in love and wanted nothing more than to be a DJ. But breaking into that scene was pretty much impossible, so he turned a different passion of his into an opportunity to be a DJ instead. He was also a prolific mixtape designer. His knowledge and love of music helped him know exactly what songs people would like based on their preferences. So when his club DJing career refused to take off, he turned to personal DJing by way of mixtapes. In short order, he and his brothers turned the hobby into a multi-billion lira business. But, of course, pirating and smuggling cassettes at that scale would eventually attract the attention of the wrong people.
Mixed by Erry is at its best when it’s just showing the passion for making and sharing music and when it’s highlighting the absurdity of the music industry. Scenes of the storefront, conversations about music, and advances in their pirating scheme are among the best moments. The kerfuffles with various other titans of illegal business often just weigh things down. An early instance does offer a fun moment with the brothers to show off their distinct personalities, but it hardly feels like it pays off in the plot so much as it serves as fine window dressing. Later instances of corporate intrigue or rivalry simply feel like fluff or ticks off of a memoir checklist. They’re neither interesting nor add to the drama of the story in the long run.
The back and forth with the financial police, however, is fun not because of the plot itself necessarily, but because it pokes such great fun at the system itself. Foremost, the chase against the brothers is juxtaposed with the wanton corruption of the government in its entirety. You see a handful of instances where you can’t help but hate the cops for wasting their energy on a bunch of kids when clearly there are bigger fish to fry. But more so, you can’t help but get frustrated by the fact that not a single artist speaks out throughout the course of the movie. Everyone knows the people who stand to be hurt by music pirating are music executives, not the artists themselves. Artists already have raw deals when it comes to the sale of their music, and in a lot of ways, exposure to their music helps drive folks towards the real revenue with concerts and merch where labels receive less of a cut.
The whole while watching Mixed by Erry, all I could think about was how pirating has evolved over the years and how anti-pirating systems and modern music distribution continue to make labels richer, but artists earn less and less. The authorities were so focused on upholding record companies’ copyright claims that today, we live in a purely streaming society that offers fractions of a cent to artists and billions of dollars to labels. Meanwhile, streaming platforms put every song ever written at your fingertips to mix into any order you want for sums of money that pale in comparison to what physical media once cost.
Erry and his brothers deserved to get rich off their innovation and artists deserve to be paid for what they create, and this movie makes both of those truths abundantly clear in a fun film. Its short run time could have honestly been even shorter by cutting out some fluff, but I enjoyed the dynamic among the family and the joy of sharing music with other people.
Mixed by Erry is streaming now on Netflix.
Mixed by Erry
Erry and his brothers deserved to get rich off their innovation and artists deserve to be paid for what they create, and this movie makes both of those truths abundantly clear in a fun film.