Mixed Up About Mixtapes

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The drama over [the DJ Drama story ](http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/22/business/22mixtape.html)is pretty interesting, but I've seen this coming for years. How mixtape DJs managed to get away with openly selling entire mixtape albums full of material that wasn't theirs for so long has always fascinated me. The RIAA doesn't always get it right, but if they've set their sights on mixtapes, this could be a good thing. The [NY Times](http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/22/business/22mixtape.html) offers a couple of good points:

"Public performance of certain mixtape material 'is probably good promotion,' Mr. Buckles said. 'When you start selling them by the tens and hundreds of thousands, I donít know that anyone is saying thatís of great promotional value.' Even in the case of DJ Drama, whose mixtapes have been credited with stoking the careers of artists like Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne and last yearís best selling rap artist, T.I., it appears not everyone applauded inclusion on his recordings. The police said lawyers representing an array of artists sent cease-and-desist demands protesting the unauthorized use of their music, though they declined to identify the artists."

On the other hand, NY Times critic Kalefa Sanneh just made a good point on WNYC radio this morning essentially saying that record labels chasing mixtape DJs would be tantamount to newspapers prosecuting blogs. Not a completely sound argument, but there's enough there to make you think. For example, [mashups] are great, but if you notice, they aren't usually for sale. Mashup artists offer them up for free, as they should, given that they have no legal right to profit from the work. In that case, sure, the promotion might be worth it to a label to leave the mashup artist alone. But if anyone is saying that [DJ Danger Mouse](http://www.dangermousesite.com/) should have been allowed to sell [The Grey Album](http://www.greytuesday.org/) without making a deal with the associated artists--well that's just crazy talk. Nevertheless, this sounds like what we're being asked to accept (from some outraged fans/pundits in the hip-hop community) with many mixtape DJs. Hopefully, this episode will inspire more legitimately talented mixtape artists to go legit and stop selling unlicensed music.

*Full Disclosure: Back in 1991 I teamed up with the [RIAA] to release a record called "Counterfeit" which helped promote their 1-800-BADBeat anti-piracy efforts.

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