Oullette has a long post at the Muxtape site about what happened to him as he tried to arrange licensing deals with the four major music labels. From the sounds of it, pounding nails into his eyeballs would have been a lot more fun — and probably would have accomplished as much. Discussions with the labels started out with “We are hours from shutting you down” and wound up getting hopelessly bogged down in demands. Then came the shocker: despite the fact that Muxtape was trying to play by the rules, the RIAA filed a complaint with Amazon over files that Muxtape hosted there on its S3 server system, and Amazon shut off the services access to the files.
It doesn’t sound like Muxtape is coming back anytime soon, judging by the statement that Portfolio magazine got from the RIAA (hat tip to MG Siegler at VentureBeat for the link), which said that the record industry group had “repeatedly tried to work with them to have illegal content taken down” and that the site “has not obtained authorization from our member companies to host or stream copies of their sound recordings.”
Muxtape, one of a host of popular online music-sharing apps that have sprung up over the past few months, has shut down, but claims that it isn’t gone for good. The website says that it will be “unavailable for a brief period while we sort out a problem with the RIAA,” while the Muxtape blog says that “no artists or labels have complained” and maintains that “the site is not closed indefinitely.” Will the site be able to strike a deal with the record industry’s lobby group/enforcer? Many music-sharing services have tried and failed to do so in the past.
The issues are laid out fairly well in a recent Valleywag post about the startup, which is run by Justin Ouellette, formerly of Vimeo, and financed by Vimeo co-founder Jakob Lodwick. The fact that Muxtape allows you to share your music with others is a legal grey area (depending on whom you talk to), but the ability to download those songs quickly and easily is likely what has the RIAA’s knickers in a twist. According to Valleywag, Ouellette has talked about changing the format of the songs streamed through Muxtape.com to make it harder to capture them.
A couple of the newer ones I’ve come across are Muxtape.com and Mixwit — and I am indebted to Fred Wilson, the music-loving VC, for both of them, since I found out about them by reading his blog. As Fred has described, Muxtape is incredibly easy: fill in a few fields and upload some songs, and that’s it. The interface is also really stripped down, which is great (although I don’t understand why the typeface has to be so gigantic). Is it legal? Who really knows. It’s a great way to share music.
Mixwit.com is a little more complicated, but not much, and you can add an image of an old cassette, which is kind of cool for those of us who (like John Cusack in High Fidelity) remember when that was the primary means of music sharing. Plus, you can do one thing with Mixwit that you can’t with Muxtape (at least not yet) and that is embed it in a blog. To me that is a killer feature. My friend David Gratton of Project Opus has a Facebook app that is somewhat similar called Mixxmaker.