One thing that the dubstep massive never seem to be shut up about - justifiably, I suppose - is the friendliness and sincerity of their scene. But this weekend, dubstep has been in uproar over a shock business move by Ammunition Promotions (the Shoreditch company that run the holy trinity of record label Tempa, club night FWD, and pirate station Rinse FM). In 2005 an eighteen-year-old Londoner who calls himself Deapoh set up barefiles.com, a site where you could grab MP3s of dubstep and grime sets from Radio 1, Sub FM, and, in particular, Rinse FM. A gazillion downloads later, barefiles.com can take quite a bit of credit for dubstep's zooming worldwide profile, making pirate radio practical for the majority of dubstep listeners who are beyond the range of Rinse's transmitters and can't be bothered to wait for their dodgy streaming audio to work.
But Rinse are rumoured to have grand plans - they apparently want to sail away from pirate waters and get a proper licence, as Kiss FM once did. This may be why Deapoh got an email earlier this year telling him that he couldn't carry on hosting audio from Rinse FM, or any other sets by Rinse FM DJs, and if he did 'the governing copyright protection agencies' would get on his case. Since then, barefiles.com has redirected to Deapoh's record label Baredubs.
Ammunition haven't come forward to give us their side of the story, so it would be unfair to come to a verdict quite yet. But over on dubstepforum.com, they've been making three very persuasive points:
1. Ammunition got big because dubstep got big, and dubstep certainly wouldn't be quite so big if Deapoh hadn't put hours and hours of unpaid work into barefiles.com. This seems like a remarkably ungrateful way to treat someone who'd been promoting Rinse FM for free.
2. Rinse can't take the legal/moral high ground when they have to operate in total secrecy themselves to stop the DTI crushing them.
3. And if they really had to shut down barefiles.com, they should have waited until they could offer a decent alternative, rather than a few random podcasts.
Maybe everything will be resolved happily when Ammunition realise how unpopular they've just made themselves. Until then, expect more worries in the dance.
Update: Ammunition have responded, saying that they only made their decision because Deapoh wanted to start charging money for Rinse FM mixes off barefiles.com and give them only a percentage. Very hard now to say who, if anyone, is in the right.