The Muxtape Story: Lies, Labels, Lawyers & Rebirth

"The industry will catch up some day, it pretty much has to."

The front page of shuttered playlist site Muxtape has been replaced by founder Justin Oulette’s odyssey from web experimenter to major label pariah and all of duplicitous negotiations, mixed signals and false assumptions in between. 

It’s the story of a somewhat naive entrepreneur butting heads with a major label system which seems determined to sue rather than deal and whose trade body the RIAA marches to its own drum without consulting its members. But in the end there’s also optimism, as Muxtape turns into a platform to help indie artists thrive on the net. Some highlights:

"The people I met (at EMI) formed a semi-circle around me like a split brain, legal on one side and business development on the other. The meeting alternated between an intense grilling from the legal side (“you are a willful infringer and we are mere hours from shutting you down”) and an awkward discussion with the business side (“assuming we don’t shut you down, how do you see us working together?”). I asked for two weeks to make a proposal, they gave me two days…"

"I approached a Fifth Ave law firm about representing me in licensing
negotiations with the major labels, and they took me on. Two weeks
later I met with…

all four, flanked by lawyers this time, and started
the slow process of working out a deal
. The first round of terms were
stiff and complex, but not nearly as bad as I’d imagined, and I managed
to convince them that allowing Muxtape to continue to operate was in
everyone’s best interest. Things were going well."

"….I received notice from Amazon Web Services (the
platform that hosts Muxtape’s servers and files) that they had received
a complaint from the RIAA.
Per Amazon’s terms, I had one business day
to remove an incredibly long list of songs or face having my servers
shut down and data deleted. This came as a big surprise to me, as I’d
been thinking that I hadn’t heard from the RIAA in a long time because
I had an understanding with the labels…"

"Over the next week I learned a little more, mainly that the RIAA moves
quite autonomously from their label parents
and that the understanding
I had with them didn’t necessarily carry over. I also learned that none
of the labels were especially interested in helping me out, and from
their perspective it had no bearing on the negotiations…"

"…And so I made one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever faced: I walked away from the licensing deals…"

"Muxtape is relaunching as a service exclusively for bands, offering an
extremely powerful platform with unheard-of simplicity for artists to
thrive on the internet. Musicians in 2008 without access to a full time
web developer have few options when it comes to establishing themselves
online, but their needs often revolve around a common set of problems.

The new Muxtape will allow bands to upload their own music and offer an
embeddable player that works anywhere on the web, in addition to the
original muxtape format. Bands will be able to assemble an attractive
profile with simple modules that enable optional functionality such as
a calendar, photos, comments, downloads and sales, or anything else
they need."

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