The founder of the on-indefinite-hiatus music search engine Muxtape posted the saga of his licensing negotiations with the major labels on the front-page of the service’s still-defunct site (http://muxtape.com).
Far from being some anti-label missive railing against the evil "music cartel" that many would expect, Justin Ouellette's screed is an interesting look at how one guy with a good idea and honest motives can quickly get lost in the complicated maze of music industry politics, personality and paranoia that defines today's digital music deal making.
On trying to determine if what he was doing is legal:
"I talked to a lot of very smart lawyers and other people whose opinions on the matter I respected, trying to gain a consensus for Muxtape's legality. The only consensus seemed to be that there was no consensus. I had two dozen slightly different opinions that ran the gamut from 'Muxtape is 100% legal and you're on solid ground,' to 'Muxtape is a cesspool of piracy and I hope you're ready for a hundred million dollar lawsuit and a stint at Riker's.'"
On the major labels' mixed messages:
"I got calls from the marketing departments of big labels whose corporate parents were supposed to be outraged, wanting to know how they get could their latest acts on the home page. Smaller labels wanted to feature their content in other creative ways. It seemed obvious Muxtape had value for listeners and artists alike."
On his feelings towards the music industry:
"I'm here to tell you now that the labels understand their business a lot better than most people suspect, although they each have their own surprisingly distinct personality when it comes to how they approach the future."
Ultimately, the complexities of striking a deal while under legal pressure from the RIAA proved too much, and Ouellette walked away from the process. He now is planning to relaunch the service as a tool for indie and unsigned acts to upload and promote their music.