If you’ve been hearing a lot about Chance The Rapper’s brilliant mixtape ‘Acid Rap’ (maybe you read his NME Radar profile?) then you might reasonably have decided to see if you could buy it from Amazon, the internet’s favourite consumer-industrial complex.
A quick search will reveal that you can: on import, currently retailing at a hefty £17.33. But there’s something fishy going on. You see, ‘Acid Rap’ is a free mixtape. You can download it direct from Chance’s website chanceraps.com now. If you didn’t know this, or if you assumed that by handing over some money for it you were helping to support an exciting artist at the beginning of his career, you’d be sadly mistaken. The CDs being sold on Amazon are bootlegs burned from the free mixtape by a mysterious company called Mtc. Chance isn’t seeing a single penny of that £17.33.
I got in touch with Chance’s management, but with the 20-year-old currently gearing up for his first ever UK festival performance at Reading and Leeds this weekend, he understandably doesn’t want to comment beyond the brief statement his manager Pat Corcoran gave to Billboard:
"I've never heard of Mtc, so this has taken us by surprise, but when I first saw it I showed Chance, and his lawyers are trying to stop it."
I got in touch with Amazon press officer Suzi Van Der Mark to ask why they couldn’t remove the listing. She wouldn’t give me any specific answers to my questions about Chance, simply pointing me to a standard disclaimer:
“Amazon respects intellectual property rights and we have an established process in place which enables rights owners and their agents to notify us of alleged infringements such as copyright and trademark concerns. We respond rapidly to any such notice. Please see here for details: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/reports/infringement.”
They’ve had a week since the issue was first raised, and the listing is still there. In fact, the list price has actually increased in the last few days.
Lots of people are handing over their money. At least 1,000 people have already fallen for these unauthorised bootlegs – enough for it to chart in the States at number 63 on the Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
It’s now pretty common for new artists to put music out for free as a way of getting themselves noticed, a model that Chance has put to good use. What’s weird is that in an age where we’re told people are loathe to part with money for music, a bootlegging company has managed to use the world’s biggest online superstore to simultaneously rip off both a musician and his fans.
Without the support of a label and their attendant lawyers it’s tough for independent artists to kick up enough of a fuss to get their complaints heard. Retailers need to step up and take more responsibility to make sure artists aren’t being screwed over.
Updated to add: It's been brought to our attention that the same situation is happening with Azealia Banks' 'Fantasea', currently available as an official free download and being bootlegged through Amazon for £9.99.
Until then… download ‘Acid Rap’ for free or listen below: