The Conspiracy Behind the Government Shut Down of OnSmash
Normally I’d redirect you over to the post over at RefinedHype where this column is written for on a regular basis but this one was a little too personal since it affects all music blogs in general.
The average hip-hop fan in 2010 has a routine. He wakes up, visits his favorite hip-hop blog, interacts with fellow hip-hop fans and downloads the latest tracks from their favorite artist or discovers someone new.
That day turned absolutely sour come November 25th as ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) took their hand at shutting down popular music blogs OnSmash, DaJaz1 & RapGodfathers over illegal file sharing. A few of the other torrent sites also swept up in the raids catered more towards the movie industry, counterfeit clothing & other wares according to this New York Times report.
Chuck D’s opening words from “Black Steel In The Hour of Chaos” rang true, but only for the crowd least likely to read them.
For two days it made other blogs from within the community (whether they be New Music Cartel affiliated or not) cautious and weary. Were they on the government’s secret watch list? Did they do anything to involve a giant image plastered on their domains and be forced to start anew?
As of Sunday, traffic within the hip-hop blogosphere has slowed with the major instance happening to be The Diplomats reunion concert and a slew of R&B mixtapes. Either the real noisemakers in hip-hop were stuffed with turkey or regrouping after the megaton bomb that was Def Jam’s golden goose release a critically acclaimed album.
One of the major aims towards at least two of the three major music sites listed would be that each site happens to have a forum where members can virtually post any content whether it is from a leaked music video to a leaked album released days before the street date. It may be the latest effort from the Recording Industry Association of America to combat leaks but it sadly undercuts those trying to even survive in the industry to begin with.
Here’s the full list of those shutdown by the ICE’s crackdown last Thursday via Funk Flex. Notice how the three music blogs don’t even look remotely related to the others?
By directly attacking music bloggers, Homeland Security (and by a stretch the government) essentially has decided to combat wars that are not wars within U.S. soil against people who do more for the industry, for the generation of new artist than possibly the RIAA itself. It’s easy to notice that those bloggers have already gained full compliance with the RIAA via the Digital Music Copyright Act but in the eyes of this writer, it obviously was not enough.
The irony here is that form sites such as OnSmash do not openly support trading of illegal albums or music. That issue is left up to the actual members who make the posts on the forums. The only information logged under the forum’s history would be that site file happens to exist and is hosted on a third party server. The only things actually hosted on the OS server? Music videos – released in conjunction with underground artists, mainstream artists or alternative acts.
So why round up music blogs who do nothing except promote artists and new music, remixes and the like? Simple – to send a message (an unnecessary one) to the blog industry who currently has a stranglehold on everything in music.
It’s obvious enough that there’s no possible way to smuggle an MP3 or a music video since neither are technically illegal. Especially when the artists themselves contact OnSmash, Splash (founder of DaJaz1) in an attempt to gain promotion for their song, album, et al. In the grand scheme of things, those blogs will take a hit and the New Music Cartel will find itself with an undeserved target on its back but it will only make every post made on a site filled with less enthusiasm about the music and more enthusiasm about sending a message back to the government and the RIAA. The bloggers may turn into hip-hop’s most dangerous group in Dead Prez and scream “they can’t stop us all”.
The RIAA has been in a decade long war of its own with the tech savvy internet user that it has focused so much of its attention that the other areas they need to maybe keep their eyes on have gone barren. We’ve seen album sales plummet and big box stores eat up the small market that actually engaged consumers. We’ve seen record labels plop down every single dime and dollar they have on marketing one artist’ album for a giant holiday run and watch others get sucked up in a “oh, that album’s out?” vacuum (see Ne-Yo getting pushed out by Def Jam the same week Kanye West released his latest highly acclaimed album). It’s come to a point where the small victories the RIAA can attempt to claim are pitiful lawsuits with someone who downloaded music before Steve Jobs came out with iTunes to simplify their problem.
Long ago, the RIAA used to sit up in a big high rise and dictate everything going in the industry from creation inside of a studio to the pricing at a checkout counter. With a constantly changing business model, the group decided to go to the one name that strikes fear in all of its citizens to gain a little traction and ploy.
By using that hand, the RIAA has shown that it is not only spineless but counterproductive in generating any interest for an industry that has to rely on catch lightning in a bottle tactics to string together any sort of feasible buzz. Maybe they should talk to labels that undership albums for artist who had the #1 song in the country and went double platinum with that song.
Because music blogs are the first and possible last line of defense for alerting consumers if an album is out. It’s grown to proportions that make the big networks pick up blogs just to compete. Before long, the business model will change once more with artist employing “Prince” tactics by charging subscription fees to their sites for fans to receive new music and try to undercut the blogs all together.
It’s a monopoly, but the capital side will soon turn your favorite MP3 into prohibition era booze. I don’t think anyone in the blog game wants to turn into a modern day Enoch “Nucky” Thompson but with the way things are going, somebody may have to step up. Otherwise the freedoms we’ve enjoyed for generations will soon become the same freedoms that get us caught up in fines and sanctions.
All for the love of music.