Toronto Stores Raided for Mixtapes

Toronto police effectively shut down the city's mixtape market

On Monday, October 4, the Toronto police raided two Toronto mom and poprecord stores|, seizing 3,000 tapes - the majority being DJ mixtapes - andCDs. Five employees at TRAXXX and Play De Record each face one charge offraud under $5,000. "Plain clothes officers came in and got all thecustomers out," said a Play De Record employee, who requested anonymity."They closed the store and just picked out all the stuff.""It's been an ongoing investigation for the past few months," says DetectiveGarry Deller of the Toronto Police Intelligence Service, a division of theorganized crime unit. "It was just sparked by the number of [mix]tapes thatwe had seen in various outlets and places like barber shops and clothingstores."

The Canadian Recording Industry Association supported the investigation."Part of [the CRIA] mandate includes investigations and enforcement ofproperty rights, sound recordings, music videos and anything else the recordcompanies own," says Ken Thompson, CRIA vice president. "None of theserecording were licensed. They were being manufactured and sold at prices incompetition with the record companies'own recordings."

Mixtapes have long been used as a promotional tool for DJs, artists,independent and major record labels. They create a street-level buzz forupcoming major releases and are critical for the exposure of independentartists. In Canada, where urban radio and television outlets are scarce,mixtapes are a crucial means of getting music to the masses. Confusionregarding the recent charges has arisen since the CRIA acts on behalf of themajor Canadian record labels, yet many of the labels recognize, and usemixtapes as a promotion vehicle.

Approximately three years ago, Toronto DJ crew Baby Blue, which producesmixCDs, was threatened with legal action, says Desmond Hill, manager ofToronto clothing store Lounge, who up until the raid did a brisk trade intapes. An employee of Play De Record called all the Canadian major labels atthat time and was told: "We're just after the Canadian mixCDs, mixtapes arefine."

"I believe we worked with most of the major labels for mixtapes," saysMastermind, a well-known Toronto hip-hop DJ who pioneered mixtapes inCanada. "I've had labels get mad at me if their songs didn't get properplacement on the mixtape. That just shows you how important they knew thetapes were."

A court date for the five charged employees has been set for November 15.