You had to see this one coming. Less than six months after becoming the hipster time-wasting destination of choice, popular music-sharing site Muxtape was suddenly offline on Monday. Fans of the site — which allowed users to assemble mixtape-like playlists online that were available for others to stream — were greeted by the message, “Muxtape will be unavailable for a brief period while we sort out a problem with the RIAA.”
The site did not offer further elaboration of its troubles with the Recording Industry Association of America — the trade group that lobbies on behalf of the recording industry, and the force behind thousands of lawsuits against individuals for illegally uploading music. A post on the Muxtape Tumblr site explained, “No artists or labels have complained. The site is not closed indefinitely. Stay tuned.” MTV was unable to reach a Muxtape spokesperson at press time. RIAA spokesperson Jonathan Lamy declined to comment.
PitchforkMedia.com speculated that the takedown could be the result of anything from a publicity stunt to a technical glitch. Then again, maybe the RIAA took issue with the fact that the site hosted thousands of free, streaming songs and that many users flouted the rules, which included a warning not to upload multiple songs from the same album or artist, or songs that the user didn’t have permission to upload.
A report on CNET.com suggested that perhaps the RIAA noticed the increasing popularity of the site and predicted it would tip into the same realm as some of the streaming radio services that have recently been ordered to pay hefty licensing fees in order to continue operating.
CNET reported in April that the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s senior intellectual-property lawyer said that Muxtape would probably be able to fly under the radar only if it didn’t reach critical mass, and if it had good lawyers who could argue for why it shouldn’t pay those licensing fees.
Speaking of those fees, one of the most popular online music discovery sites, Pandora.com, is on the verge of going under because of the high cost of licensing fees for Internet radio stations. The fees, which do not apply to terrestrial radio, have caused a number of popular online radio stations to shut down or consider going out of business.
Tim Westergren, the founder of Pandora, which has almost 1 million daily users and is one of the most popular applications on the iPhone, told the Washington Post recently that he’s approaching a “pull-the-plug kind of decision,” thanks to the doubling of the per-song performance royalty ordered by a federal panel last year.