A few days ago, I wrote my thoughts about Muxtape's closing and relaunch. A commenter suggested that I write to Ouellette about approaching independent labels, so I did. My email to Ouellette is published in the comments section. Yesterday, I got a response:
I did consider approaching independents, but it would've been extremely complicated logistically. Doing a deal with the four majors is possible with a small team of experienced lawyers, but there are literally thousands of independent labels each with their own ideas about how licensing should work and I can't even touch on the complexity of that problem. Also I couldn't have paid for it, especially in light of the fact that what I'd be selling to investors was a crippled version of the original site with a big question mark on the final price and the necessity of even licensing at all.I want to thank Ouellette for taking the time to respond to my email -- I'm sure that he got a lot of questions/opinions about Muxtape in recent days. He's absolutely right about the logistics of approaching independent labels, and I suspected that would be a major barrier. The opt-in solution is a very good approach, and I also share Ouellette's optimism that many independent bands and labels will opt-in themselves. And if enough independents opt-in, I think Muxtape could have an opportunity to show the major labels and the RIAA why fighting digital file-sharing may not be in their business' best interest.
Even if the label negotiations had gone swimmingly well they still took up a massive amount of my time. Negotiating with independents would've been many times worse in that regard, and the site would've suffered badly. Then who wins? Muxtape was originally possible because I was free and agile to build whatever I wanted to, and that's what I'm trying to get back to. It's not just editorial control, it's the ability to say, write and release an iPhone app without having to ask someone's permission.
I think the only way to do that right now is to make the whole service opt-in. Labels and bands that see the value in it will be able make the judgement call for themselves whether or not it's right for them (and I suspect a lot of them will).
Good luck, Justin.