Ex-Label Employee Hits Rewind On The RIAA’s Anti-Mixtape Stance

Jan 17th, 2007 // 5 Comments

After reading about DJ Drama’s arrest this morning, an Idolator reader sent us an e-mail:

What makes this situation so completely ridiculous is that every significant “urban” release when I worked at a major label featured a line in the marketing budget for “mixtape promotion”. I personally authorized checks to be written to the big mixtape dj’s, and I’m sure DJ Drama kept some check stubs that would incriminate the same labels that make up the RIAA that raided his studio.

Obviously, some majors are participating in the mixtape market; given the cycle of promotion on hip-hop records, it would be foolish for them not to. But even with that cooperation, there’s always the sample-clearance nightmare that so many records have to go through. We’re not lawyers, and we’re curious about the actual legal principles surrounding the mixtape market, particularly if, as this tipster alleges, some RIAA-member labels are in on the whole game. How shady is it? And what about places that sell the tapes–can they expect SWAT teams at their doors soon? If you can offer any insights, send them along to tips@idolator.com; we guarantee anonymity with all tips we receive.

Earlier: DJ Drama Gets Raided By The Feds

  1. Fresh

    The New York Times had a good article about last year’s raid on Mondo Kim’s, during which five employees were arrested for “failure to disclose origin of a recording in the second degree and trademark counterfeiting in the third degree”:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/16/arts/music/16sann.html?e

  2. afriedman

    all discussion of legal issues aside, drama’s tapes are essential promotional material for any rapper on a major label. to say that “some majors are participating in the mixtape market” is an understatement; drama makes promo tapes *with* artists. it’s ridiculous to say that labels don’t know about them.

  3. the planner

    First, the majors ABSOLUTELY endorse these projects.

    I attended an Entertainment Law conference and spoke to an attorney with one of the majors at length who said that they know it’s going on and they think of it as a good promotional vehicle.

    They “look the other way” and they know their artists are making money on these underground mixes.

    In addition, some artists have “mixtape provisions” written into their contracts.

    I have negotiated deals with major artists to do their “undergrounds.” Sometimes, they get permission from their labels; always, the major label knows that the underground is coming out, they know where it is going to be distributed, and how it fits into the marketing strategy.

    Second, the RIAA has been raiding these shops for years. I represented a duplication company and their competition had all of their equipment and funds seized to the tune of a couple million dollars.

    From time to time, the company would call and say, “so-and-so just got raided.” The feds would sweep in, seize everything, and then move on to the next one.

    My clients were fully authorized to manufacture their product, according to their contracts, but they decided fairly quickly that the risk of seizure was too high to remain in the industry. Now, they contract the manufacture out and produce undergrounds for indie labels.

  4. coolfer

    the fact that majors know of, support and need mixtapes is as well known as was the practice of using independent promotion pre-spitzer. it’s the worst-kept secret of all time.

    mixtapes aren’t done just because its a way around clearning samples. what is big in the streets, on the mixtape scene, has a huge impact on what makes its way up the corporate ladder.

    recently signed to riaa-member jive records: brooklyn rapper papoose, who is really big on the nyc mixtape scene.

  5. Fresh

    I’m not sure if mixunit.com (probably the biggest online mixtape distributor) was threatened today also, but they just took down all of their mixtapes.

    http://mixunit.com/

Leave A Comment