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Wilco Shows The Entertainment Industry How To Respond To A Leak

from the see?-not-so-hard... dept

Last month, when the work print of the movie Wolverine leaked online, the studio 20th Century Fox went ballistic, sending out all sorts of threats and getting the FBI involved. We had suggested that if they had taken a different approach, they could have turned the leak into something beneficial. Our suggestion was to make the following statement:

Hey Wolverine fans! We know that you’re all looking forward to the release of the movie next month. We’re excited too! By now you may have heard that an early totally unfinished version has been leaked online. It’s missing a whole bunch of stuff — including some amazing special effects — and honestly, this version isn’t a finished product at all. We think you’ll get a much better overall experience by waiting for the full finished product, but we certainly understand that some of you just can’t wait (trust us, we feel the same way!). If that’s the case, please, feel free to check it out, but please remember that this isn’t even close to the final version. If anything, think of this as a “behind-the-scenes” peek of just what a movie looks like before all the real “movie magic” gets put in there. If you do check it out, we hope you’ll join us May 1st to check out the finalized version as well on the big screen the way we intended for you to see this awesome movie. It’s just a month away!

And, of course, we had people from the movie industry tell us we were crazy (some funny emails from the movie studios, actually), and that such a plan would never work, and how could they not call in the FBI and threaten legal action. Apparently, my suggestion was the dumbest thing ever.

And… yet… when others actually do something like that, it appears to be working. Reader mikez points us to the news that the band Wilco discovered that its upcoming album has been leaked online, so they put up their own streaming version of the album for all to listen to and released the following statement:

“Well we made it nearly a month with copies of Wilco the album floating around out there before it leaked. Pretty impressive restraint in this day and age. But the inevitable happened last night. Since we know you’re curious and probably have better things to do than scour the internet for a download though we do understand the attraction of the illicit we ve posted a stream of the full album…Feel free to refer to it as wilco the stream if you must.”

See? Turns out it’s not so difficult. And, while 20th Century Fox was getting slammed left and right for its actions, Twitter this morning is abuzz with people talking about how awesome the new Wilco album is and how excited they are that it’s coming out.

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Comments on “Wilco Shows The Entertainment Industry How To Respond To A Leak”

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Geoffrey Kidd (profile) says:

Not Too Shabby

Ran over and listened to the album. Some good stuff there. If it’s available without DRM infestation, I think my wife might like it. So… I’ll keep an ear out.

I’m reminded of Baen Books’ response when the author accidentally released an almost-completed version of his latest novel. They released it as the “Oopsie” Advance Reader’s Copy(ARC), available for a small fee. If you later bought the “Official” ARC, you could also get the oopsie as part of the package. If you bought the eBook, you got all three.

Wanna guess who did buy all three? And Baen is and has always been DRM-free.

Anonymous Coward says:

I discovered Wilco when I downloaded their entire discography via bittorrent right after A Ghost is Born. I had never heard of them, but there were enough seeders for the huge file to make me think “maybe they’re worth hearing.” I’ve been an enormous fan ever since.

Several years later I own every album they’ve released on vinyl, gigs and gigs of bootlegs from the tapers that they allow in the audience and have seen them live half a dozen times. They really understand how to treat fans.

zcat says:

Not the first time though?

Did a google news search to see how many outlets had picked up the PR. Not many; but in the process of looking I ran into an article “Eight Successful People Grateful That They Got Canned” on WSJ;


4. Wilco

In 2000 and 2001, the Chicago rock band Wilco recorded an artsy album that departed from the band’s previous folk-inflected work. The record, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, didn’t sound quite like what the band’s label, Reprise Records, was hoping for. Although the album isn’t aggressively grating, it wasn’t full of the radio-friendly rock that the cash-strapped imprint needed to churn out a few hit singles. Reprise refused to release the album and dropped Wilco from its roster. As part of their severance from the label, the band got to take the master tapes of the record with them.

Without a label to release the album, Wilco decided to simply stream it on their website for free. As critical buzz for the record built, Nonesuch Records (like Reprise, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers) bought Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and gave it a commercial release in 2002. The record was a critical smash; it topped many critics’ best-albums list for the year. It was also a commercial success, selling close to 600,000 copies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: You can almost hear the panties bunching up

>But how will the artists get paid if everything is free????

The point is that everything isn’t free. Concerts, CDs, Vinyl and other downloads are paid for those who feel that they want to pay. Lots of people pay lots more don’t but it is enough to make a decent profit.

jjray (profile) says:


As much as I hate to agree with the position of any organization with the word “Fox” in their name, I too would have been mightily pissed had an unfinished version of the movie leaked. Why? Because people start making judgments (and posting those judgments) based upon an unfinished product. In this case, legitimate reviewers started blasting the movie based on the unfinished version. That’s very damaging to the makers of Wolverine.

I am in favor of cutting way back on the reach of copyright laws but the Woverine episode just isn’t a very good example to make the case.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: contrarian

In this case, legitimate reviewers started blasting the movie based on the unfinished version. That’s very damaging to the makers of Wolverine.

Almost all of the reviews I saw were positive. And if 20th Century Fox had acted reasonably, then more people would recognize that the movie was missing so many special effects, and treated it accordingly.

kj says:

Back when they first did this in 2001 it was especially noteworthy. Considering how the free music thing was relatively new, and the album had been rejected by their label. Once that was released it was the highest charting album of their careers. Then they did the same thing of providing streams of their next two albums (before this latest one) and each charted higher than the one before.

luckybleu says:

this leak hurt wilco

Anybody who thinks this leak helped wilco is an a-hole,they have lost much needed revenue from this.By streaming their alblum now on their own site they are hoping to attract fans to participate in merchandizing and selling concert tickets, its the only option they have left to get paid for their work.People keep downloading on illegal sites and telling yourself the artists are better off for it,so you don’t have any guilt,the truth is artists are better off when they are compensated for their works

Theologian says:

Re: this leak hurt wilco

Understand your sentiment but it’s just not true. This band has streamed every album, allow taping at thier concerts and are doing better than ever. Their last album, after streaming, opened up #1 on the Billboard charts. The latest DVD was number one opening week. Their are many bands who use pirating as a form of free publicity. The Grateful Dead have lived off this for over 40 years now. They allowed bootlegging when every other outlet shunned it because of the harm it did the artist. They made out quite all right. If a band has to try to survive today only selling CD’s they might as well pack it in. Plus it really invigorates the fan base. This record will open number one on the charts and how much higher would that have been if it wasn’t leaked?

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