Mixtape Conundrum Exposes How The RIAA Is Protecting Bad Business Decisions, Not Artists

from the figuring-this-one-out dept

Following yesterday's story about the RIAA using a local SWAT team to shut down and arrest a well known DJ for his mixtapes, it seems that it's kicked off an interesting debate in the major media. As many people have been pointing out for years, there are ways to embrace unauthorized copying, by recognizing that the content has promotional value. That's not surprising to many folks around here, of course, but you almost never hear that admitted by the media, who seem to have bought the RIAA's line that any unauthorized copies are "piracy" or "theft" (when, in truth, it's neither). However, following that arrest, we're starting to see stories pointing out how these mixtapes have played a huge role in promoting various hiphop stars, and many of those whose content is used this way are absolutely thrilled about it. The only ones who aren't happy about it, apparently, are the RIAA, whose quote for the article was: "A sound recording is either copyrighted or it's not," which actually totally misses the point. First of all, a sound recording is automatically copyrighted, so he's not even correct in what he's saying. However, the real point is that whether or not it's copyrighted doesn't matter here. The discussion is about whether or not the use of mixtapes is actually helping or harming the music business.

What this is really about is the fact that the record labels that make up the RIAA wrote bad contracts. They wrote contracts based only on making money on selling CDs, not on selling music or the musical experience. Yet, the musicians themselves have recognized that there are plenty of ways to make money if your music is popular enough -- so they're thrilled to get any publicity that they can then turn into money (without most of it going to the RIAA). That is, via concerts, merchandise, sponsorships and plenty of other opportunities, and since none of that money is shared with the record labels, the musicians make out great. The real issue isn't about "protecting the artist" or "protecting the music," it's about the RIAA's bad business decision making. Of course, when other businesses make bad business decisions, they don't get to use the SWAT team to help them remedy the situation.
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  1. identicon
    Tatiana, 19 Jan 2007 @ 7:59pm

    Dumbest mistake EVER

    Most CREDIBLE hip-hop artists' careers begin and end with the mixtape. Point blank. I'm guessing some of these comments are from people who aren't TRUE hip-hop fans, cuz they don't see the bottom line even when it's right in front of us.

    Without the mixtape (which has been around since the 80s), there are artists whom we would have never heard of. Soem of the most memorable/important verses in hip-hop were spit on mixtapes and not on actual artists' albums (Ether and The Takeover spring to mind).

    Mixtapes are the only medium where hip-hop artists can be real. They don't have to format a mixtape to sell to a broad audience (i.e. white kids who are looking for pop more than true hip-hop). The mixtape is for the streets and is the only thing lately that THE STREETS aren't complaining about. Albums are watered down to the point where no one is buying them. But mistape sales are at an all-time high.

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