DJs march on D.C.

Some folks in the DJ community feel that there aren't enough legal protections for their chosen career, and are organizing a march in Washington D.C. this weekend.

Matt Rosoff
Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.
Matt Rosoff
2 min read

After reading to the end of this Boston Globe article about this weekend's Million DJ March in Washington D.C., I was confused. What are DJs protesting?

One DJ interviewed in the article mentions that he had to fight with a club owner to get paid, and that DJs aren't required to fill out W-2 tax forms. I've got news for him: unless you're a union musician with an airtight contract, being ripped off is an unfortunately frequent part of the performing experience. It's supply and demand--there are more musicians and DJs willing to perform than there are events, venues, and fans.

The official Million DJ March Web site has a post entitled "Why?" (no permalink; scroll to the bottom of the page) that isn't much help either, saying that "there are very few laws protecting this art form as a craft and career" and referring ominously to "self-sufficient machines" that threaten the DJ's career. Robots with turntables? No, probably just MP3 players plugged into the house sound system--no human required.

Digging a little deeper, it looks like the march will be a combination of outdoor party (live DJ performances) and seminar, with speeches and panels on subjects ranging from financial planning to the legal crackdown on mixtapes. I think this last point gets to the nut of the problem, and what the march is really about: the record industry quietly relies on mixtapes to publicize new hip-hop artists, at even as it's seizing thousands of "illegal" CDs and arresting their creators on racketeering charges. The labels can't have it both ways, and apparently the DJ community's going to start making itself heard.

Speaking of mixtapes, last week the online mixtape service Muxtape shut down while it discusses licensing issues with the RIAA. Blogger yewknee.com has an pair of videos in which Muxtape founder Justin Ouellette discusses the legality of third-party online music sharing sites. No answers, but an interesting discussion nonetheless.

(Lead from music-business blog Coolfer.)