For me, it started back in September. Just after returning to blogging post-holiday, I noticed that something wasn't quite right. I was sure I had done a post about Richard Hawley side project The Feral Cats, but it wasn't there any more. Strange, especially given that the song still appeared on my Hype Machine listing. My first thought was that I had been hacked. But by who? An outraged Richard Hawley fan, furious that I had posted a track only available on a very limited edition 10 inch single? Surely not. Slightly worried though I was, I changed my login and password and left it.
The next one to disappear was much more noticeable. A day or so after I reviewed the new TV on the Radio album, the post also disappeared, with no warning. Now something was clearly going wrong. If it was a hacker, why so discriminating? If they wanted to harm my blog, they could just have deleted the whole thing.
Things got a bit clearer when I read this post on To Die By Your Side. It seems that Coxon (who writes TDBYS) had been targeted in a similar way and his posts on The Verve and Cold War Kids had been ghosted away. So it's clearly been coming from the record companies. But hold on... I was sent the TVOTR album by the blogger-friendly 4AD (though admittedly they never give explicit permission to post). But a quick look at their website shows that TVOTR are on DGC in the US, which is part of the evil empire that is Universal. That explained a lot. Then I found out that this was happening to a lot of bloggers and it's continuing daily, even in the time that it's taken me to write this long-winded post, more bad shit has happened.
In the past, any record company complaints were usually directed via file hosts - mine would either ask me to take the offending mp3s down or delete them themselves. Earlier this year I had my account closed by one host, but I guess that's just part of this borderline game we play. There's also Web Sheriff, which although strident in tone, was similar to a record company or PR simply asking you to take something down, which is the way I prefer it. But the tactics have now switched. By going straight to Blogger and deleting the offending item is a lot more direct and painful. Plus, if you're a blogger who values writing rather than just posting mp3s, you lose something that you may have spent good time putting together.
Over the last week or so, things have taken a decidedly nastier turn. In the past eight days, I've had a further two posts deleted. This time I received an email about these, otherwise I may never have noticed. That's because one of them was from over TWO YEARS AGO. That's October 2006. The deleted post was about a FREE CD I picked up in Rough Trade, featuring a load of young folky types, none of whom are very well known, even now. However, one of them was Johnny Flynn, now signed to Vertigo, a subsidiary of our old friends Universal. The notion that they're trying to clear the internets of Flynn mp3s was confirmed on Monday when another Johnny-featuring post, this time his appearance on Jeremy Warmsley's Welcome to our TV Show, was also deleted. This is all bad stuff, not to mention pretty stupid given that the mp3s had long since been taken down. But let's think about this further for a minute:
- The live track was recorded in Jeremy Warmsley's living room and sent to me by the man himself. I'm sure it is (was?) also freely available on last.fm.
- The song on the free CD was from when Johnny Flynn was just starting out playing solo stuff and long before anyone at Universal had ever heard of him.
The latter point is compounded by fellow-blogger Ed from 17 Seconds, who had an interview with Glasvegas from January deleted last week. This was before the band had signed with major label Columbia (part of Sony BMG) and the mp3s Ed posted were with full approval of the band.
So does this mean that even if us bloggers stick to the indie and unsigned artists, and post everything with full permission, that sometime in the future some bastard is coming to come crashing down on us because in the past we've had the temerity to write about and post songs from an artist that they have gone on to sign? Does that mean that nothing is safe? Surely one of the sources of information that major labels use to find out about new bands is blogs. That's just having your cake and eating it.
But anyway, I could go on in an indignant fashion, but that would be pointless. There are a lot of bloggers out there feeling a bit vulnerable, though some have suggested some fightback action. Matthew Song, By Toad is writing to a Columbia bigwig, which should be interesting. But ultimately there's probably not much we can do against heavy handed, idiotic people who have money and legal power on their side. Actually, there are a couple of things I can to to mitigate things a bit.
1. Avoid anything on a major label. This isn't going to be very difficult, given that I don't much anyway. However the fear of future action as noted above remains.
2. Move away from Blogger. I actually tried to do this earlier in the year and move to a self-hosted Wordpress blog, but found the process horrendously complicated. However, I'm determined to do this now, because though it won't provide complete security, I'll feel a wee bit safer. Those who have this set-up (like Matthew) seem to have survived so far.
Anyway, this post is way longer than it than it has any right to be, so I'll stop now. The next few weeks in blog-land should be interesting.
Before I go, here's a song which I've been given explicit permission to post. So it should be OK. I hope.
mp3: Rod Thomas - Same Old Lines (James Yuill Remix)