After a long period of silence, Muxtape's Justin has posted a story of what happened before the service disappeared, and what he plans to do next.
The next is fairly simple - a relaunch as a Web 2.0 networking service:
If that sounds a bit like MySpace, and a slew of other services, that might be because it is. That doesn't mean he shouldn't try, but it's not Muxtape, it's something else and if we've learned anything from Napster, sticking a popular name on a legal-but-less-useful service is no guarantee of success.
So, then, what happened with the shut down? Justin's surprisingly generous to major labels, confusing the people who work for them who aren't kneejerk against web developments with company policy; even while he was getting legal threats from the RIAA, he believed he was winning labels' hearts:
Around the same time I got a call from the VP of anti-piracy at one of the majors. After I picked up the phone his first words were, “Justin, I just have one question for you: where do I send the summons and complaint?”
But this, it seems, is just how those companies do business:
Justin sees this as a positive sign - and, perhaps it is. But his experiences at Universal and EMI suggest otherwise:
A few weeks later I had a meeting with EMI, the character of which was much different. I walked into a conference room and shook eight or nine hands, sitting down at a conference table with a phonebook-thick file labeled “Muxtape” laying on it. The people I met 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.
Does this really sound like companies who "understood" Muxtape and wanted to work? One guy from Universal; a slew of figures from EMI whose idea of a business discussion is to run it like a bullying showcase?
And while all this was going on, the RIAA was getting ready to tell Amazon - who hosted the site - to take it down. Which is hardly fair dealing - sure, they may well have had the right to do so, but if their members are having discussions with the service about turning it legal, does it even make sense for them to be in the background also trying to kill the thing? Wouldn't square dealers at least say "look, this has to be closed, but let's talk about reviving it. That way, we can tell users what's happening, give them a date for the new, legal service."
But that's where it would have folded anyway, because, of course, the music industry didn't want Muxtape. It wanted its own service under the Muxtape brand:
So the music industry "understood" Muxtape, except what it was. It was at this point Justin decided to walk away.
The upshot? Something would could have been delivering revenues to artists has vanished, replaced by other services which are fractured and harder to police; the audience loses something that was giving them new ways to love music and discover new artists. It's hard to see where the winners are.
[Thanks to Simon T]