Busta Rhymes Backs Megaupload, Says Record Labels Are The Real Criminals

from the who's-hurting-who dept

Well, well. As we pointed out when the Megaupload shutdown happened yesterday, the company had recently named top producer (and husband to Alicia Keys) Swizz Beatz as CEO. Swizz knows tons of artists who respect him, and it seems that some of the biggest names in the business are pretty pissed off that the US government shut down Megaupload. First there's Diddy, who put out a couple tweets pledging support and telling him to never stop.

But what's a lot more interesting are the very direct statements from Busta Rhymes, who is clearly pissed off at the US government claiming that Megaupload is a criminal operation. Putting his tweets together, he states:
1st of all I am soooo proud of my brother @THEREALSWIZZZ 4 being apart of creating something (MEGAUPLOAD) that could create the most powerful way 4 artist 2 get 90% off of every dollar despite the music being downloaded 4 free...

With labels and companies doin' deals with Spotify and many other companies like it who doesn't give us shit continue 2 do what they do and blatantly show us how much they value the artist with doing deals of such disrespect and lack of value 4 our content...

I am proud 2 stand next 2 my brother @THEREALSWIZZZ and fight the good fight...Our freedom is truly being fucked with in a very significant way and I strongly suggest 2 all artist especially the 1's Swizz repped 4 comes out & reps 4 him!!!

You can see the tweets here (full version), here (full version), here (full version) and here.

There's a key point in all of this that we missed in our earlier analysis about paid accounts at Megaupload. In the indictment, the government seems to assume that paid accounts are clearly all about illegal infringing works. But that's not always the case. In fact, plenty of big name artists -- especially in the hip hop world -- use the paid accounts to make themselves money. This is how they release tracks. You sign up for a paid account from services like Megaupload, which pay you if you get a ton of downloads. For big name artists, that's easy: of course you get a ton of downloads. So it's a great business model for artists: they get paid and their fans get music for free. Everyone wins. Oh... except for the old gatekeeper labels.

In fact, this is part of the ecosystem, especially in the hip hop world. It's why the artists also support those hip hop blogs that the RIAA insists are dens of pure thievery. The artists release their tracks to those blogs, knowing they'll get tons of downloads -- and actually get money. If they do deals with labels, they know they'll never see a dime. Putting music on Megaupload is a way to get paid. Working with a gatekeeper is not.

And yet... Megaupload is the criminal operation? Seems like the actual artists know otherwise.

What Busta is pointing out is that services like Megaupload -- while it may be run by some sketchy individuals and probably crossed the legal line in some cases -- are actually a great new business model for artists, while also being the future of distribution. It's a great way to distribute, make money, and let fans get the works for free. And that's why the major labels are so freaked out by cyberlockers. It's not because there's so much infringement on there, but because it's a system whereby artists can get paid and can better distribute their own works to fans... without signing an indentured servitude contract with a label, which never pays any royalties.

Did Megaupload break the law? Perhaps. But it seems clear that the real fear on the part of the RIAA and the major labels is not so much about that. It's the recognition that such a distribution and payment system undermines much of their reason for existing, and takes away their ability to control artists. A smart label would learn to embrace these things. But we're talking about the major labels here, and so instead, they run to the US government -- who clearly knows nothing about the way modern artists monetize and distribute music -- and lets them try to paint a picture of just how "evil" services like Megaupload are.

But the artists know better.

Filed Under: business models, busta rhymes, cyberlockers, diddy, disruption
Companies: megaupload, riaa, universal music

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  1. identicon
    KingFisher, 20 Jan 2012 @ 5:40pm


    Ummm..but can you all it criminal to infringe on yourself? That's a rather silly argument. A crime is when you steal something from others; Saying that stealing from yourself is a crime sounds like an oxymoron statement to me. If you think about it who would want to transfer copyrights to someone else. if the artist owned all the copyrights themselves, they can do whatever the hell they want with their work. Conspiracy of copyright infringement? More like Conspiracy to promote better competition. I'll repeat what many people have said, the staff at MU aren't saints but at least they are being innovative. Can you still call it copyright infringement if the artist, who owns all the copyright themselves gives permission for people to get their songs or content for free? No, its not. When the artist owns all the rights, those who claim its infringement (RIAA) are just trying to force an artist they haven't signed with into obeying them and signing a record deal or claiming theft when they have no rights.

    I do agree though on one point. Artists who are already signed with a record company can't do this because they are in a legal contract in which they don't own copyright anymore. But there are still problems thing here is when a contracted artist pulls a deal like on MU, it isn't dealing with copyright infringement but dealing with a breach of contract. It's a matter of by comparison being signed with one record company and saying you can't go anywhere else, and then turning around and writing songs for another record company. It's not a copyright problem at this point but a problem over executive contracts. A copyright problem would be over owned content(having song x owned by Company A be produced by Company B), not over what the artist does with future songs.

    But there is an option available for those artists signed with with a record company. Cancel your contract, with the record company that it has over any future songs you write. Simple as that. I hope I made a good point to all you fellow artists out there.

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