Faithful readers know that I had a (very minor) run-in with the Recording Industry Association of America that led me to shut down the original corner I operated from. My return here on wordpress has been of much smaller scale, and I refuse to promote any work published by a label that is in the R.I.A.A. With rare exceptions, I won’t even promote the live or independent work of an artist who has ever released an RIAA recording. My rationale is that it’s just worth the threat of a lawsuit or the stress of cease-and-desists. Also, the industry “protected” by the RIAA has made it very clear that they are interested in the help of bloggers.
Unless it suits them.
On January 16, The Aphilliates (DJ Drama, DJ Don Cannon, and DJ Sense) were raided and some of them were arrested for making mixtape CDs. Let me say outright that I believe the holder of a copyright should be able to enforce that right. I sided with Metallica during the old Napster furor. If artists can’t rely on labels to promote and protect them, then they can’t hope to get rich. If artists can’t hope to get rich, then . . .
Then what, exactly? Then we’ll miss out on Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Hannah Montana, and every other band that was assembled solely to make money. Okay, no great loss (IMHO) there because that sort of temporary, trend-based art will always find a market. But we’ll also miss out on the later work of folks like Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, and, yes, Metallica: Folks who have earned access to ears and equipment that struggling artists can’t hope to reach. This is important if genres are to grow and become mainstream, and being in the mainstream is important. If Lil Jon or Lil Wayne stayed local, New Yorkers would never have heard crunk. If the Beatles hadn’t crossed the Atlantic, the world of music would be drastically different today.
In order for hip-hop to become mainstream, the industry entered into an unspoken agreement with folks like the Aphilliates. Now, though, that Dedication 2 outsells Wayne’s label release (because it’s better, frankly), the tide has turned. In recent years, mixtape DJs have grown fat and the labels have grown jealous. Hip-hop, always characterizing itself as an outside culture, gained popularity in the 90s and was forced to struggle with label-made gangstas and entire MTV blocks devoted to them. Recently, mixtapes featuring locals and unknowns have risen to reclaim the outsider status of the culture. Folks like Papoose, Lil Keke, and Saigon are bringing the game back even when NaS insists it’s dead.
And the RIAA can’t stand it, so they’re cracking down. The mixtape DJs who used to receive special leaks from the labels themselves are now being punished for their efforts. The guys who broke 50 Cent, T.I., and Weezie are being arrested by the representatives of the very guys who they made famous.
Next, they’re coming after us. Bloggers, like myself, do what we do for love. That’s it. I don’t get paid, and I don’t get press. I’ll never be bought up by Rolling Stone. But the RIAA is perfecting web-crawling robots to identify content in mp3 files, true Terminators on seek-and-destroy missions that will kill indiscriminately. They won’t care if you’re leaking whole albums or just posting a few tracks. They won’t care if the PR folks sent you the material (as they did for DJ Drama), or if you discovered it yourself.
They’re only interested in one thing: Money. Which is funny, ’cause I think the reason that they’re making less money is because all they’re trying to do is make money. Not music, and certainly not musicians.
So the next time you’re going to shell some of that out to buy some new tunes, consider the source. Forget the Fall Out Boy and buy Bloc Party. Skip the new Bruce Springsteen and buy the first two Hold Steady! Albums. Dump Coldplay and jump on Middle Distance Runner. Forget Ludacris and Fiddy, and pick up one of Loosie Records’ new joints.
And the next time you’re thinking of posting on a band, check who they run with. I’ve been noticing that more and more sites are having trouble with their links. The RIAA’s crawlers are out there. Don’t be one of the doors they knock on. Don’t help them make money. Be like me: Revel in the fact that multi-zillion dollar acts are tanking.
And, more importantly, blog independent!