The digital mixtape is dying on the Web. The RIAA is killing it just like it tries to kill anything that smacks of consumer-driven innovation. Digital mixtapes are nothing more than shared playlists. Sites that make it easy to create and share music in this fashion are shutting down left and right. Muxtape bowed to legal pressure from the RIAA earlier this year, and now Mixwit is shutting down as well. The service will cease to exist before the end of the year.
In a blog post announcing the imminent closure, Mixwit does not specifically mention any legal action by the RIAA, but it is not hard to put two and two together:
We’ve put a year of work into Mixwit so this choice wasn’t taken lightly. I won’t go into the details of our situation but state simply that we boldly marched into in a position best described as “between a rock and a hard place.” We’re very grateful to be have been part of the mixtape revival of ‘08 and are satisfied to be able to to bow out while things are still good.
. . . We’ll return early next year with a new company and new toys. Until then, enjoy the holidays and please take good care of yourselves, your families, and your friends =)
The lesson here for music startups is that it doesn’t matter what consumers want to do with music. In the eyes of the music industry, sharing music is (still) a crime.
Update: I asked Mixwit founder Michael Christoff if the RIAA ever actually sued his company or threatened to sue. It did not, but the fear of a lawsuit is what drove him to pull the plug. Here is his response
we’re glad to have contributed what we did to the 2008 mixtape revival, and we’re completely stoked about our forthcoming company. that said, we’ve received a lot of questions today so we liked to say a few brief things about why we decided to shut mixwit down.
first and foremost, we’d like to say that we’ve had good and not-so-good communications with the record labels over the past year, but we were never sued. i’m sure i don’t have to explain that our mixtapes are perceived to be in a legally ambiguous state (at least as far as the labels are concerned). we’ve explored all options, including becoming fully-licensed, and we decided that the time commitment and economics just don’t make sense, particularly with the economy the way it is. the decision was clear: we needed to shutdown the mixtapes. we thought about continuing with mixwit as a company, but we could never get assurance that the future of mixwit would not be hurt by the perceived liabilities of its past so we decided it was time to to shut things down.