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Monday, August 06, 2007

The Anatomy of An Album Leak


Understanding the Wild World of the Album Leak...
Who it helps and Who it hurts.

For every five or six albums produced in the United States, it is said there is at least one major hit song or album leaked early. In the worst case scenario the entire album may be leaked hours, days, or even weeks before the scheduled release date. Traditionally, it's been a headache for some musicians and a nightmare for record executives. This is a look at the practice of leaks: who leaks, why they leak and the varying responses from Artists, Record Labels and the various media outlets. The way the industry and musicians handle themselves when things are going well tells you very little about the business - it's the potential of loss that let's you know what they're made of...



"Days of the Leak" is the title of a most interesting article in this month's issue of Spin magazine. Author Douglas Wolk takes a look at four album leaks - the potentially most harmful of 2007 and looks at how they came to be. Linkin Park's "Minutes to Midnight" was leaked on May 4 - fifteen days before the album went on sale in stores. The White Stripes released "Icky Thump" on June 19. It was leaked out to the internet and played live on Chicago's Q101 radio-station where it could be recorded freely off the air on May 30 - three weeks early. VIDEO: Jack White's reaction to the album leak. Spoon formerly released the "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" album on July 10 - less than a month ago. It had been in the hands of many fans for almost two months. The Shins scheduled their release "Wincing the Night Away" for January 23, 2007 - hoping that it would be one of the biggest new releases of 2007. It was being shared on the internet beginning on October 20, 2006 - three full months before the band sold a single record in stores.

Perhaps the highest profile anti-piracy and leak prosecution case in recent years involved two rabid fans of Ryan Adams. Two of Ryan Adams' fans: Robert Thomas, 24, and Jared Bowser, 21, were accused by federal law enforcement officials of leaking album tracks to one of the artist's fan pages a month before the commercial release. The prosecution and reporting of the incident polarized the growing internet music arena and popular media. There are still many upset with Ryan Adams and his label - Lost Highway Records, for their role in the prosecution of the fans to this day. Others, including RIAA spokesmen and representatives for the U.S. Attorney's offices applaud the prosecution and protection of intellectual and creative property. More on this leak and the evolving story - here. The Ryan Adams track "France" has been downloaded thousands of times since last summer. It has never been formally released. The only copy available is the now widely-shared leak version from July of '06.

The Latest and Greatest: Some artists have adapted their strategies to embrace the leak! The emerging philosophy being adopted by numerous up-and-coming indie rock bands and for a few existing artists who are electing to adopt guerilla marketing techniques. "Blog band" Clap Your Hands Say Yeah gave away their first album to pretty much anyone who would listen. It was a bold and most successful move. NIN recently gave away dozens of songs free to fans in Europe during their most recent tour. The only catch - you had to find the USB drives hidden in a handful of bathrooms of the venues when Nine Inch Nails played. By the end of the tour the news was widely know and the "promotion" was canceled. Oddly, fans in the United States who leaked some of the same songs were served legal papers. Prince recently gave away a copy of his new album, "Planet Earth" by including it in the Sunday newspaper package of a British tabloid. The move pleased UK fans but ripped the music industry in England already reeling through back-to-back-to-back years of declining sales. A Guns n Roses - leak?! The album promised for more than a decade - "Chinese Democracy" was the subject of an early '07 blogger media blitz (ahem, I did not buy in... but others -and here did.) Smashing Pumpkins even went so far to put Paris Hilton on some "illegal" releases that evidently leaked out. Singer Billy Corgan released the record himself. Other famous musical leaks - Thom Yorke, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna, the Fiery Furnaces, the National, Built to Spill, and many many more. Stay tuned. More on the continuing story of leaks, the role of bloggers and guerilla marketing of music as it comes. It should be interesting to see where all this leads us!


THE MOST FAMOUS LEAKED TRACKS/ARTISTS
of 2006-2007


Don't sue. Today I'm a journalist.

- UPDATE 8/20/2007 -
My radio interview with 95bFM New Zealand!!!
We discuss this blog.

15 comments:

Ryan of the RSL blog said...

Pick Up the August Copy of Spin. It's the one with Interpol on the cover.

Ryan of the RSL blog said...

If you like this post, please Digg it!

Peter said...

you forgot about guster's reaction, how they released one of their albums early on kazaa, but replaced the original lyrics with meow's

Ryan G said...

Unfortunately, this article only goes so far as to point out what albums were leaked and when and only vaguely on how and why.
I would have liked to see more details on how this effected any sales as well as reactions from the labels on how this hurt or even helped spread the album to potential listeners and buyers.

-- Ryan

Anonymous said...

Dimmu Borgir (Large black metal band) watermarked their album and found out it was an Italian journalist when it leaked.

flyguy said...

I cant even listen to the white stripes interview from MTV because "copyright restricts play outside of the USA" Is it any wonder the music industry gets ripped? We cant even listen to a flippin' interview??? Twats

tvnation said...

you forget Kings Of Leon Because of the Times

Marginal Minds said...

Sweet post dude... Full album leaks are one of those guilty pleasures that I'd be lying if I said I didn't partake in from time to time...

2b said...

One of the most interesting cases of an "album leak" that I remember, is Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine. Word was that Sony didn't like the album and had shelved it until a few tracks and finally the whole thing made it online.

Even after that, people had to launch a campaign to get it officially released.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_Fiona

I guess this would be about the most extreme case of a leak being to the benefit of the artist. If not for the leak, how long would it have been gathering dust?

DMS said...

Maroon 5's album was most deff. the biggest leak of this year.

Joshua Holt said...

Very cool article, although I agree it would be ripe for a follow up with more detail about how this affects sales, whether the fans served any time, etc. Still, leaking an album is a major part of the modern day record industry.

Also, this article was published before Radiohead released In Rainbows, obviously an attempt by the band to avoid leaking. I can still remember Jonny announcing the new album 10 days before it came out.

Very pleased to find this article in your archives Ryan.

-Joshua

Subservient Experiment said...

I know you posted this a year ago but I just now found it and I thought it was extremely interesting. I only wish I had found it sooner so I could have bought that issue of Spin.

=w=
healthryder.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

A good site for finding out whether albums have leaked is http://cdleaks.com - it seems to be updated more often than diditleak

Dustin said...

You know, I've bought albums that were leaked online. I listened to them early, and couldn't wait to have the physical media in hand. Sure, you don't get the huge media commercials, but it gets out to the people. A lot of people will download a leaked release that normally wouldn't even give it a listen. It gets their music out there.

Stumbled on the site, thought I'd comment! :) Good article, other than thinking the RIAA had anything worthwhile to say...

Ryan Spaulding said...

You state a point I've tried to make for years - that artists are often aided by leaks. People who would never otherwise be exposed to the music have a chance to hear it. Numbers have proven out that leaks haven't killed the industry so much as the industry's practices have cut into profits. New technologies have changed the game. Consumers are more informed for sure.