1.30.2004

MUSIC - The Last DJ

The RIAA has sunk to a new low. They are now confiscating DJ mix cds because they are technically illegal because djs don't license the individual tracks.

As a techno dj, I find this personally offensive. DJs use mix cds to promote themselves. Record producers need the free promotion of their work. It's a symbiotic relationship that is based on reciprocity. One will fail without the other.

Why do dance record producers rely on underground djs to spread their work? Because the record companies are only interested in promoting mainstream acts, and there is no market for emerging artists. If the record labels aren't going to promote new artists, if the radio stations refuse to promote new artists, then the artists have to rely on the DJ.

If electronic music producers have to rely on the RIAA to ensure a paycheck, they might as well pack up the synthesizer and drum machine.

The electronic music industry has been in a downward spiral since the government now regulates night life in American clubs. DJs and producers can no longer rely on income from live shows. The music industry ignores them. Now the RIAA is cracking down on the only source of promotion left. What's next? Tracking license plate numbers of customers at record stores? (Oh, wait. That's been done.)

DJ Mag sums it up well:
This latest attack by the RIAA is therefore hypocritical – they claim that their pursuit of copyright infringement is primarily in the interest of the artist, yet most dance producers actually approve of and rely upon this illegal distribution.

The dance scene relies upon these ‘illegal’ ways to survive, and it seems that the only people who actually care about this particular copyright infringement are not the artists themselves but the record companies – who are only involved in the dance scene for profit.

So what can bedroom djs do? Keep on banging the beats and the mixtapes. That's for damn sure.

But we have to see where the dust settles. How far can the RIAA seriously pursue this? Electronic music is pressed on vinyl specifically so DJs can play them in clubs and on mix cds. Early white vinyl pressings (dubs) are distributed to the nation's top DJs and vinyl stores several months in advance, specifically so they can be used in promotional mixes. It's an established system that has existed since the days of Disco, and I have yet to hear a complaint from a single music producer. Even during the Napster controversy, producers and DJs have consistently stated that mix cds are our bread-n-butter. Without them, the industry suffers, the fans suffer.

And, of course, respect for the RIAA continues to fall to an all-time low.

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