Despite Being Leaked Three Months Earlier, Shins Album Sets Sales Record

from the does-not-compute dept

Plenty of content businesses like to point the finger at piracy when their sales don’t meet expectations, but very rarely do they own up to the idea that file sharing can help their businesses. The latest case in point is indie band The Shins, whose latest album was released towards the end of January, and sold 118,000 copies in its first week, which put it second on the Billboard chart. The album’s release even created enough fanfare to revive the midnight record-store opening, which had fallen out of favor with indie retailers, since file-sharing and online sales meant people no longer needed to be in a store at midnight to get the earliest access to new music. What makes these points notable is that The Shins’ album has been widely available on file-sharing networks — since October. The way the record labels tell it, you’d have imagined everybody that wanted the record would have downloaded it by now. But it would appear something else happened, something terrible enough to help the band shift more records in a single week than ever before.

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Comments on “Despite Being Leaked Three Months Earlier, Shins Album Sets Sales Record”

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|333173|3|_||3 says:

THis story is going to set of a big anti-RIAA rant, but it does make a good point. THe question is wether it was the online avaliabitiy which made it reach number 2 (which seems likely, since THe Shins appear to be a minor indie band), or if the online copy was only known about by the die-hard fans who would have bought the album anyway. THere dpes not appear to be any mention of the online avaliabiity in the article, so does anyone have a link?

FIRST, if I have not spent too long actually writing a comment.

Beefcake says:

1. Get Music 2.? 3. Profit

Musicians should just drop their labels and put an address/paypal account on their recordings, but charge nothing for them. You download it, copy it, or walk out of a “store” with it for nothing. If you like it, you send them some money. Directly. No middleman-marketing-machine “label” to siphon off all the musicians’ earnings. I’ll bet even if compliance was low, the musicians’ which the labels purport to help would see more money for their product.

Anonymous Coward says:

no really the default price I see on albums is usually $9.99 US across the board.

The leak coulda helped in the form of a lot of people got it.. liked it.. told their friends about it who probably werent into torrents or p2p and bought it. I guess like underground exposure.

As far as who all knew about the leak of it… I mean first of all its limited to people who regularly use p2p programs and then limit that to people who know about the shins.

But anyways good for them. I listen to the Shins and cant get enough of “Phantom Limb”.

Neonghost says:

Let me start off by saying any album that I’ve P2P’d that I listed to more than twice I own. With pandora now I download almost nothing, but I’m of the camp that if I like I’ll pay for it.

I think this report goes to show that there are alot of people like me out there. If it’s good you’ll pay for it. If it’s kfed you’ll consider paying not to hear it. But this shouldn’t be news to people with MBA’s. How the RIAA gets so bound up in it’s own BS proves my assertion that if you go to colledge stupid all you come out being is pompous and stupid.

chaaaboiiiiiii says:

RIAA can [censor]

The Shins are an indie band, and I would assume that since the music is underground, only appeals to a certain a demographic. That demographic that likes music for music, not for some hot, half-naked woman.

And with this demographic, they support the artist.

I could be totally wrong, it’s just a guess. I’m just throwing it out there.

lizard says:

Re: RIAA can [censor]

“And with this demographic, they support the artist.”

that would be my guess as well, but for (what i assume is) a different reason: the demographic that likes music for some hot, half-naked girlie, is most likely served this very slickly packaged thing by a large record company, because hot half-naked girlies are industry bread & butter.

all i’m saying is having a taste for T&A pop doesn’t make you less likely to support artists, it just means you are less likely to be given the opportunity to do so.

i like to think if everyone were offered this choice, that the outcome would be sufficient to support the music, without screwing the music buyers or the music makers, as is the business model now (screw everyone). but then i’ve always been one o’ them crazy dreamers.

Bill says:

I'm not clear on this.

Carlo, are you saying that if record companies release music in both free MP3 downloads or on CD that there will be let’s say a “minimal” loss in CD sales? Or are you saying that a small amount of “illegal” file sharing won’t hurt sales?

The way I’m reading you and Mikester is that downloads/file-sharing should be free and legal and that record companies will still make plenty of money. Is that a fair restatement?

I don’t know if this has ever had a real-life test because file sharing is fairly controversial and not so widely used (not with you but among the general public). Again, if the record companies were to offer high bit rate MP3’s as free downloads you guys believe that will not canibilize sales – right? Or are you saying that only crappy low bit rate MP3’s (or whatever format) will not canibilize sales?

Mousky says:

Re: I'm not clear on this.

Mike and Carlo are saying that music companies should focus on selling music and adding value to said content. Suing customers, using the police to enforce civil matters and changing civil laws into criminal laws, is bad for business.

he standard RIAA line is that file-sharing is bad for business. Despite the fact that the album was available on file-sharing networks, the album sold 118,000 copies in its first week. Despite the availability of ‘free’ music, iTunes generates a nice revenue stream for Apple. Despite file-sharing, people are still buying CDs or download music from pay services. On and on it goes.

Bill says:

Re: Re: I'm not clear on this.

So, Mousky, you’re saying if the record companies said “Go ahead and copy all our stuff, we’re not going to sue anyone for copying our stuff and we’ll just try to sell copies of your copies that you copied from us”, that sales would not be canibilized? Does that make any logical sense? Are you saying it’s the pictures and lyrics in a CD that are what sell the CD’s? And those would not be allowed to be copied – or would it in yours and Mike and Carlo’s scenarios? I’m just trying to get a clear picture here. Thanks for your reply by the way.

Bill says:

Re: Re: Re: I'm not clear on this.

I just have to add that you and Mike and Carlo, if you want to have your scenario accepted, need to lay it out in logical terms that stupid people like me and the idiot record execs can understand. Just saying “look what happened in this case here” isn’t good enough because it’s not a real market situation (IMHO). It has to be laid out in a logical form that people like me can clearly see.

Vincent Clement (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: I'm not clear on this.

I’m not sure how you can get a clearer picture by putting words into people’s mouths.

I never ever stated that record companies should tell people to “copy all our stuff”. I am saying that record companies should FOCUS on adding value to their content.

As to cannibalizing sales, well, all I can say is that iTunes somehow manages to compete very well with free music. And here we have an example of band landing at #2 on Billboard DESPITE their album being available on file-sharing networks since October.

Let’s look at this from another perspective. Despite the lawsuits, despite DRM and copy protection, despite extending the length of copyright and despite attempts to criminalize civil matters, music continues to be shared on P2P networks. All those actions taken by the RIAA have had little impact on file-sharing. Rather than fight file-sharing they should embrace it as a form marketing.

The problem is that the bean counters at the record companies see every illegal download as lost revenue, when in reality, that illegal download represents, at most, a potential lost opportunity. The RIAA seems to believe that those illegal downloads can be converted into sales. Given that most people have a finite amount of cash, that is impossible without having a negative impact on some other sector of the economy.

By “adding value”, I’m not referring simply to lyrics and pictures. It could be one-time codes used to download bonus material like unreleased material, behind-the-scene videos, discounts off merchandise, etc. It could be a multitude of things. Heck it could even be promoting the not-so-mainstream. Different strokes for different folks.

The record companies fear the internet because for them to succeed they have to loosen their control over their content. They view that loss of control as loss of revenue and loss of profit. That is so ‘old-school’ 😉

PT says:

Re: Re: Re: I'm not clear on this.

Basically the RIAA/MPAA can still officially say illegal file sharing is wrong and that they will still prosecute offenders. But they do not actually have to spend so much of their resources pursuing litigation, lobbying for new laws, and funding DRM research that ultimately hinders consumer choice and convenience, and raises costs, but does nothing to stop piracy itself.

The threat of lawsuit and jailtime/fines would be enough to keep most people from committing an illegal act anyway. It won’t stop the diehards, no matter how strong your laws are enforced or how many people you sue. But they can still litigate on cases in which they have irrefutable proof that the offender is guilty and even better to go with those who are file sharing for a profit. Going with cases such as these can still keep them in the news to let Joe Public know that there’s a chance they can get caught if he does bad bad things but the industry and our laws wouldn’t have to suffer with changes that amount to nothing except headaches and abuse of fair use.

If they can’t stop file sharing via lawsuits and DRM then they can at least appeal to people’s good sense and morales to support the music they love at prices that are fair. The labels will still make a profit. People really do want to buy and support their favorite artists. The labels should forget about dreams of making 800% more profit if file sharing didn’t exist. They might as well dream that their competitors would all disappear next week and the one left standing would reap in 5000% more in profits. Not going to happen.

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'm not clear on this.

If they can’t stop file sharing via lawsuits and DRM then they can at least appeal to people’s good sense and morales to support the music they love at prices that are fair.

How hard would it be to include a small “thank you” inside a CD or DVD? Instead one of the first things you see when you play a DVD is the Interpol and FBI warnings about copyright. Wait a minute, I just bought a DVD and I’m being treated like a criminal. Meanwhile, the real ‘criminals’ are removing the warnings and selling the DVDs at the local market.

PT says:

Re: Re: Re:3 I'm not clear on this.

That “thank you” note really would be a nice idea. As for the warning, I’m actually in support of removing them. They aren’t necessary in this day and age as just about everyone and their grandmother knows that illegal copying is, well, illegal. These FBI prosecution warnings are just like the stupid warning labels that read something like “please remove child before folding” on a baby stroller.

duh stupid says:

Pay for Good music

I don’t know about everybody else but usually I only use P2P to sample music im thinking about buying. First of all it takes time for me to shift through al the crap out on the P2P networks and worry about viruses and what not. But that’s worth it to me a poor college student with limited funds for buying music. I hate going out to buy the latest release of a major label to pay $20 or more for 2 good songs!! if I can preview on a P2P and find an album i think is worth Ill buy just for the higher quality. I like my MUSIC not the crap the labels want to sell me!! Although the T&A is nice to look at, thanks, makes browsing the store a much more enjoyable experience. Even if I never buy the crap!!

Anonymous Coward says:

i have full access to p2p programs. yet i still purchase the music i like. i enjoy that iTunes lets you play a small sample of the song. if i like something, i want to support it. i want them to be able to make more of it. the default assumption shouldn’t be that people are greedy who won’t pay for stuff they enjoy. dvd’s still get sold, yet its relatively easy to get most movies on p2p networks and the same goes for music. they’re already competing with free and they’re still doing well. people are willing to pay for good music even though they can get it for free. RIAA is pissed cause a new business model would require that they only sign good bands cause they’re the only ones that would make money.

Bill says:

Techdirt for dummies

I can tell Vincent and duh stupid are both dummies like me. I am trying hard to understand here.

When P2P’s start widely using FLAC lossless compression and sharing sites organize data better and begin approaching i-tunes quality (because the riaa and mpaa will stop going after them and they will be free to ramp up their services) why would you continue to purchase music? I don’t believe the added value offerings would be enough for anyone but diehard fans to be motivated to purchase music.

I think PT said it well that the threat of lawsuits keeps most people from downloading on P2P. That’s what I mean that this is not a real market situation. The Techdirt people keep saying that companies are competing against “free” but when you look at the threat of a lawsuit there is a cost. Some, like Vincent, may not see that cost but I think the RIAA has such done a good job of suing little old ladies that the average joe is very aware of the potential cost. I’m not supporting that but I think the RIAA is crazy like a fox. They have gotten quite a bit of publicity with these crazy lawsuits. They have to maintain a certain amount of control over their markets or everything would quickly spin out of control for them. And that means maintaining the lawsuits, DRM, copy protection etc.

I just don’t believe it’s realistic to think the RIAA would back off and let people download music freely. The line has to be drawn somewhere.

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Techdirt for dummies

The line has to be drawn somewhere.

Why? Despite all their efforts, the RIAA has had no impact on file-sharing. How many P2P networks have come online since Napster? And don’t forget that during the Napster era, music sales increased. People were exposed to music that they have never heard of. The biggest change was that the consumer was in charge, not the record company.

I don’t believe the added value offerings would be enough for anyone but diehard fans to be motivated to purchase music.

Plenty of people have readily available drinking water in the form of tap water, yet the bottled water industry makes a lot of money. Look, I’m not saying that added value offerings are the saviour of the music industry, but they should at least try. It may work. It may not. Locking down content and suing customers is not working. Maybe, just maybe, it is time to focus on marketing music?

They have to maintain a certain amount of control over their markets or everything would quickly spin out of control for them.

Sorry, but that is downright false, and in all honestly, so what? The movie studios said the same thing about the VCR. Who would buy movies when they can just copy them? Yet, sales of movies on VHS created a new revenue stream for the movie companies, changing the face of entertainment.

You keep saying that you want to understand, but you seem to be set in your ways. You can’t see how for-pay services can compete with free. You can’t see the RIAA relinquishing control. You can’t see the benefit of adding value to content. I’m not sure what else I could say to make you understand or least consider alternative points-of-view?

Dempsey (user link) says:

I think the main point that’s trying to get made, and it being twisted, is this: The RIAA’s argument that illegal downloads hurt sales is faulty. The Shins is a case-in-point. Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” is another (album was offered for free download from THE BAND’S OWN WEBSITE until the CD was released. Entered Billboard at #14 its first week).

Illegal downloading, much like cheap TDK cassettes, should be ignored by the industry. It is not hurting business. Putting out crap artist? That hurts business.

ScytheNoire (profile) says:

Bands no longer need the music industry. They can do the distribution themselves, can market it themselves, and can produce it themselves. If they want to hire professionals for these positions, more power to them, but why give away all your money to a music label just so they can control your work?

I think in the next decade you will see more and more music getting away from music labels, because of their controling nature and bad reputation, and move more towards having their own label and production.

Movies will enventually follow as big name directors start doing their financing through financial firms, like George Lucas did. He only used Fox for marketing and distribution. That these days can be done with any company that can do that.

The sooner the MAFIAA dies, the sooner the public gets better quality products, the profit goes to those who deserve it, and the sooner the public gets their rights back.

Bill says:

Techdirt for dummies

Ok Vincent, say you were made head of the RIAA. Your responsibility as head of the RIAA is to watch out for the interests of your members – the record companies. What would you do? Remember that kindness to the listening public is not your concern except in how it affects revenues.

Would you publicly state that you would not sue anyone for file sharing? That FLAC lossless compression downloads are ok? No line need to be drawn?

How long before an i-Tunes copy comes up that makes money from advertising, gives free FLAC downloads, gives no money to artists and cuts the record companies out completely? Which site would you download from i-Tunes or the free i-Tunes copy?

Bill says:


Another Techdirt story corrected and thread dominated by Bill. With his folksy down-home humor and “with it” high-tech lingo Bill “mixes it up” with both Techdirt editors and their readers. In his self-defacing and disarmingly humble style Bill has “shown the way” in numerous story threads. Techdirt editors continue to be unable to refute Bill’s relentless logic. His depth of knowledge and experience have been a “huge contribution” to Techdirt.

For permalinks to this and other threads by Bill along with a recap of how the stories “got it wrong” go to

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