Mix-Tapes and ©

Op-Ed Contributor: The Tale of the Tapes

Mixtapes are street-level, do-it-yourself products that have grown into a multimillion-dollar business. So record companies (aware of the promotional power of these tapes) provide music to D.J.’s specifically for mixes, and the rappers themselves — who are often the copyright holders — endorse the mixtapes by appearing on them. Are we to really believe that the recording industry doesn’t want these mixes distributed to fans? Of course it does.

But under the current system, the only people who risk punishment are the retailers. I know about this firsthand. In August 2003, police raided my Indianapolis record stores and seized thousands of dollars worth of mixtapes. I was charged with 13 felonies, spent a night in jail and ultimately lost my business. Ten months later, I pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge: selling CD’s that did not conspicuously display the address of the manufacturer.

If the industry truly wanted to stop mixtapes, record companies should simply stop providing tracks to D.J.’s. The industry knows, of course, exactly who’s making these tapes; the industry needs these tapes to be made. Why, then, are tax dollars being spent on arresting people who, by distributing mixes, are doing nothing but promoting upcoming hip-hop releases?

As it stands now, the music industry, record companies and artists are getting rich, and fans are getting the music they want. Meanwhile, stores like Dappa Don, Mondo Kim’s and mine are left to fight costly legal battles.