I am from the bootleg culture. I made my name on a pack of dubstep bootlegs in 2006 that ended up getting spun around the world. I am also from hip-hop culture, where DJ Drama's arrest by federal agents in 2007 shocked the industry and frightened everyone in the game. Curators stopped selling their mixes for money, and the term "For Promotional Use Only" was stamped on every release that came out on a mixtape site for MONTHS after this event. The days of hustling hard copies of projects with copyright material came to an end. If history repeats itself, there will be a giant arrest in EDM that will do nothing more than serve as a warning to the industry.
Outside of my writing for Do Androids Dance, I curate content for a music network that generates huge traffic off of the back of an unimaginable amount of followers. We get artist or label permission for every track we post, and require that all tracks be sample-free or have any samples used cleared. And more often than I would like, artists and labels big and small simply jump to sites that don't mind hosting content that doesn't fit this criteria. Just a couple of days ago, I halted the post of a tune from a small label because an obvious sample was being used, and asked if we could get a VIP version without the sample or with something from a royalty-free sample pack, to no avail. I walked away thinking this was one of hundreds of tunes that I had denied posting because it put our network at risk. And somehow as the site that I curate for has more followers than any other of its kind, I look like a prude.
My actions are pointed, and with reason. I watched as Real Trap got their account flagged one too many times. They were reported to Soundcloud by Fool's Gold, flagged, and publicly begged A-Trak and JWLS to help them keep their account. It seemed as if the majority of their tunes were stripped, and they had to start fresh. They currently look to be doing the same thing that landed them in hot water, as there are still unofficial remixes and material with unapproved samples being hosted there. This is nothing short of ridiculous, as the repost feature allows them to use their 65,000 followers to see content outside of their network, and any notifications of removal will go past them and to the artist they reposted. You can accuse me of slamming a competitor (probably the closest competitor, actually), or keep in mind that virtually every other site in the world is operating like this. The goal is to curate a giant network of fans by any means necessary, and start to charge for placement on these sites. Who cares if you get flagged or can't monetize on YouTube if you're charging several hundred dollars to place one song?
This is nothing more than speculation, but it feels like regulation is the next step. I spent an hour on the phone with Daniel Distaster of Heroes x Villains a couple of weeks ago, and the one thing that I walked away from the conversation with was his heads up that this industry has been moving incredibly loose for an incredibly long time. Cash is flowing freely, and the people that set the rules in music years ago have no choice but to conform at a loss or snitch in an effort to take their position back. Instead of celebrating how we as a business and a brand have overcome barriers, labels are backing themselves in a corner where their only move is to lobby for mandates within the music business. You can feel free to call me crazy until this becomes reality. I'm fine with that.
This industry is now filled with unofficial bootlegs and uncleared samples being sold at a profit. I've been submitted and passed on posting hundreds of songs that are on iTunes that contain noticeable samples, as labels and PR firms can't provide me clearance for the vocals used. Everyone involved at every level of the industry is well aware of this practice, and they all look the other way. Though most labels are getting away with this consistently, the gravy train won't last forever. The most frightening fact about the SoundCloud recognition system is that it actually works. And as they figure out ways to hone this technology, leasing the patent applying it to the iTunes library or Beatport's archives is the smart business move. Currently, all it does is flag accounts and cause their team more work. You can't honestly think that they will keep this service in-house.
How many copies of "Harlem Shake" did Mad Decent sell before we figured out neither the label or Baauer cleared the samples used? It took Warner's offer to distribute the record for the truth to unfold, and for the parties sampled to come forth with their hands out. It was a #1 single before anyone spoke up to say anything. This is your indicator of the current market. The mentality of "everyone does it" can only last but so long. An unimaginable amount of content is being sold without proper label clearance for samples used, and it's going to be incredibly problematic for small labels to survive when large labels figure out how to pinpoint their content and the lawsuits start flying.