observations, reviews and ramblings about Hip-Hop culture, sports, politics and the industry and life in general.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

RICO , smico - boo!

i'm locked up they won't let me out

We have all heard how DJ Drama was busted on RICO charges for his mixtape hustle. Even made the Times.

The Times approached the story from an interesting angle.
Who really came after Drama? The labels?
That seems unlikely as Drama's mixtapes are good for record sales and publicity. Hell, people get paid to lobby the dude. Interestingly they referenced my favorite rapper Lil Weezy as being a beneficiary of the 'Gangsta Grillz' series:

It also seems clear that mixtapes can actually bolster an artist’s sales. The most recent Lil Wayne solo album, “Tha Carter II” (Cash Money/Universal), sold more than a million copies, though none of its singles climbed any higher than No. 32 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. That’s an impressive feat, and it’s hard to imagine how he would have done it without help from a friendly pirate.

It seems it was the RIAA the supposed label advocacy group that sent the Feds down to the "A. " This obvious conflict reinforces two points I have made time and again:
  1. The record business is a mess.

Right up there with health care and the airline industry the music industryis one of the most inefficient infrastructures in the US of A. The business model that I was taught is crumbling. And this drama (pun sort of intended) is a prime example of how the business is moving towards cannibalism. Business and Legal affairs versus the Promo dept.

A&R's want to bail the brother out while the suits believe the end of mixtapes will boost sales. One hand has no idea what the other is doing. And all the while the power suits at the RIAA are on a completely different agenda.

2. The days of selling recorded music is over

Let's be honest mixtapes are the definition of copyright infringement and bootlegging. Plain and simple. Drama and his crew were blatantly breaking the law and advertising their crime. In the case of T.I. (Drama's partner) they made stacks of cash off of Atlantic's intellectual property. We all know this. But the reality is that giving the music to Drama is good for sales.

Having Wayne freestyle over a Just Blaze beat gave fans a larger sampling of Wayne's talent. That larger sampling in turn strengthened Wayne's brand. Universal was then lucky enough to turn that into record sales but even if it didn't Wayne could make a million dollars touring and licensing his music.

Trying to squeeze every dollar out of recorded music is not going to work. Putting Drama and other mixtape DJ's in jail will have net negative effect. Without Drama fans will not turn to Best Buy in droves. They will not log onto iTunes in tremendous numbers. They will either leave the marketplace or turn to the seemingly infinite number of blogs like hiphopgame or Bust The Facts and download it for free.

It is time to embrace a new business model or die. Although it will provide immediate relief locking up DJ's is a waste of time and energy.

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