Rather Than Waiting For Someone Else To Leak Your Music, Why Not Leak It Yourself?

from the connecting-with-fans dept

A couple people have sent in the news about how Simon Cowell apparently has called in the police to go after hackers who supposedly hacked into a computer at his record company and leaked a new song by a singer named Leona Lewis. It’s not clear what evidence there is that there was an actual hack, rather than the leak coming from somewhere else, but that seems besides the point. If the computers were broken into, then it seems fair enough to go after those who did the hacking.

But, either way, it seems that more and more musicians are recognizing that they might as well leak the songs first, so that such things aren’t even an issue. Last week, we noted that Radiohead had leaked its own track, and it seems that less well-known bands are doing the same thing. The band Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground apparently wasted no time at all getting their new tracks online. Even though they’re still working on the details of the actual album release, the band finished the album last week, and put it online almost immediately. Why wait for some artificial “album release” when the music itself is ready to go?

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Comments on “Rather Than Waiting For Someone Else To Leak Your Music, Why Not Leak It Yourself?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

“we noted that Radiohead had leaked its own track”

Not really, it actually looks like a major FAIL, where the track was suppose to be released on a given day and someone accidentally put it online. Outside of perhaps selling it on Itunes, I don’t think Radiohead had any intentions of selling the song anyway, so no big deal.

“Why wait for some artificial “album release” when the music itself is ready to go?”

It’s called marketing. Put the album out today, but only start to market it seriously in 3 or 6 months, well, you lose the buzz. Then again, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground sold what, 1000 copies of their last album? Congrats to them for that. So if they lose 10% of their market because of digital downloads, they will just have to cut back on the beer for a week.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What’s likely to create more buzz? Marketing hype or word of mouth from people who actually like the music? Why do you think that artificially-created demand is the only way to sell a product?

If you purposely withhold a product from sale while you create the “buzz”, and the audience gets fed up of waiting, who’s to blame for the pirated downloads? Teh eeevil “pirates”, or your dumb ass for refusing to sell to people demanding the product? If your product isn’t available, people have to wait or get the pirated download – the pirate will be more popular, all thanks to the instant gratification culture the marketers have created to begin with.

The bottom line is that the delay between marketing a product and release day exists purely because of physical products. Limited shelf space meant that everything needed to be geared toward the first week of release for maximum exposure. That limitation no longer applies, so by insisting on this artificial delay, you’re actually needlessly creating an incentive to “pirate”.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:


Not really, it actually looks like a major FAIL, where the track was suppose to be released on a given day and someone accidentally put it online. Outside of perhaps selling it on Itunes, I don’t think Radiohead had any intentions of selling the song anyway, so no big deal.

Got any reputable source on the subject or a bunch of speculative blog posts from industry shills such as yourself.

Anonymous Coward says:


Got any reputable source on the subject or a bunch of speculative blog posts from industry shills such as yourself.

I agree with you Chuck. I think that misinformed AC missed the recent Billboard Magazine article that states digital will eclipse physical sales by 2010…

So when AC doesn’t read an industry rag, it can look like a major FAIL. But, hey, no big deal…

R. Miles (profile) says:

Stop for a second and review the article.

What if this song was in post-production prior to said leaking attempts?

From the artist’s perspective, I can see where this could very well be an issue in that the leaked song wasn’t what the artist intended for the audience.

This reminds me of the Wolverine leak. Yes, the flip side is to take this event and market it, but sometimes that just isn’t possible.

I can’t imagine the costs involved to “play down” an intentional selfish act like this. It places so much on the artist and all involved.

Worse, it can create potential for destroying possible ideas in connecting with fans. We have no idea how this track was going to be used.

But now, any ideas of a “surprise” are now shattered.

Going after the criminal doesn’t make a difference if an idea was shattered. It’s now time to clean up the mess.

I get the gist on how to handle situations like this, but damn, to state the artist should have done it anyway is a bit arrogant.

Sorry for the small rant. Just some days I can’t simply agree with what I read.

Enrico Suarve says:

Another tactic

How about arranging for someone to ‘hack’ your computer and place the music online

Create a huge fuss in ALL the media about how shocked and appalled and angry you are, basically make sure said group which honestly not many people really give a toss about are on every front page

To get this amount of exposure would usually cost a fortune – how convienient that the plods and papers are doing it for him

Simon Cowell is one of the most media saavy people I know of (note I didn’t say I like the guy), the speed and volume this ‘news’ was leaked at seems suspicious to me

andy says:

leak it yourself

this is already a wide-spread practice amongst indie labels. i work for a small label of about 9 artists, and only one act/manager refuses to let us blast free mp3s to the blogosphere. otherwise we leak the first track about a month ahead of release, another on release date, and once the album is out there and readily available we blast one to the blogs about once every three weeks because hey, it’s out there anyway.

the point of all this is, of course, to get people to test drive the album. no one buys records blind anymore, they’re not willing to get ripped off by the old “3 singles and 8 fillers” album structure of the 90s.

Jesse Cannon (user link) says:


I find this to be a little short sighted about how to make money from a leak. I agree leaking is a great idea and it it is definitely better to leak your record to the Torrent sites in a high quality format since otherwise you may be faced with a 128K stream of your record being the popular version.

As well if you leak to early like Kay Kay you risk that by the time your fans are able to buy your record they may be over it and even if they loved it they may not pay to support it once their passion has died for the record. I have loved sooo many records for 3 months but these days with so many bands and easy music consumption it is easy to get bored and move on FAST!

The band Thrice with a huge rabid fanbase just had their record leak 3 months in advance. What about all the fans who like to pay for music they are then faced with that fans who they feel superior to having something they want in advance of them when they feel like a real fan as opposed to those who would “steal” it. This leads to fan alienation. Not good. I agree you should leak your record yourself and look at it as another distribution avenue but you MUST make paid version available the same day whether it is through rush service through TuneCore, Bandcamp or Google Checkout on your own site.

Fushta says:

Re: ehhh

I find this to be a little short sighted about how to make money from a leak.

Why is it required to make money from the leak? By selling the actual tracks? Most new artists cannot make much from just selling tracks online (or environmentally damaging discs).

The real money will come with patience and connecting with fans. Once you have the fan base (if you’re any good), then go on tour where the real money is.

The music is, in its very essence, the marketing tool; used to create the fan base. Both new and established artists should not concentrate on selling the music tracks, but instead concentrate on connecting with fans.

Use the music, sell yourself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: ehhh

That’s not entirely true. Yes, you can sell yourself, as you say, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sell music tracks.

The difference is that you should try to sell what people can’t get anywhere else.

If you want to sell CDs, that’s perfectly fine. Spread the music around so as many people hear it as possible, and then say “Hey, if you liked my music, you can buy this CD that I released”. People still value authenticity, as long as what they’re buying feels like something special…even if it’s just a cool cover art or a signature.

ojkelly (profile) says:

Who leaks now anyway?

If you music “leak” it, leak it to places you can utilise.

Wherever it is you choose to leak it, there must be:
A way to find out more about the band,
Links to your major social media presences (twitter, facebook, myspace, etc).
Links to MORE of your music.

Which can be put in a text file alongside a torrent. But really, leak them onto your own website. Ask for them to be spread, WITH attribution. With links.

It works for blogs. It works for music.

But then, where not really leaking it at all now are we? And why wait for an album release to put out a new song?

stinson (profile) says:

word of mouth marketing

i agree with this post, as well as PaulT, Chronno S. Trigger, and andy, who have all made good points about why putting the music out right away is relevant to the current market of music fans, and thus the correct way to run a music business in today’s world.

i read some similar articles about a year ago, and it resonated the same way with me, posing the question, “why is there a 6 to 8 week delay in the release of a record?” i understand that in the 80’s and 90’s when the cd took off, propelling music sales to places it had never reached before, that marketing in this way was relevant to that age. but today things are different. delaying a release 6 to 8 weeks for marketing reasons in an age where not only the album format has changed, but most importantly fans’ consumption preferences have changed, simply does not make any sense.

today fans are doing the marketing for us via word of mouth. if you’re doing something that resonates with fans, then they are going to talk about it and share it. fans should be empowered to do this, making it super easy, as well as rewarding.

i’m all for releasing music directly to fans as soon as the project is finished, and it’s something that i’ve done with the bands i work with. however, the one block i’ve come up against (and it is a very significant block), is that the gatekeepers who run blogs, magazines, radio stations, etc, don’t want to talk about music that has already been released. they want to be able to “break” the news of new music. in a world like radiohead this would not be a problem. but the reality of my situation is that we’re just not big enough. we’re a small indie company representing small indie bands, and when the gatekeepers won’t talk about our music because it’s already been put out, then our reach becomes very limited. word of mouth has been great for us, but at this point we’re still limited in our reach.

any thoughts on how companies and bands in a position like mine can navigate this landscape, when we want to put emphasis/reward on fans, but still be able to play ball with the gatekeepers?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: word of mouth marketing

Stinson, you are correct – if you “leak / release” music too far ahead of the actual product, it is very likely that the market will be killed long before you get there. The true fans will have downloaded the music months before, played it to death, and have moved on long before the music is available in any commercial formats. It even would have a negative on touring, appearances, and whatnot.

The “gatekeepers” don’t want to deal with a stale product. Overexposure in the market really can make distributing CDs / music a waste, with more time spent counting returns and inventory and less time spent counting sales.

The internet (like any medium) can be a great marketing tool, but the uses of it need to be focused. Just saying “toss it out there to get exposure” isn’t always the best idea. Honestly, if your fans are that eager for your material, they will gladly wait 4 or 5 more weeks to get it done. If it allows a record company like yours to get a wider distribution deal for the music you are pushing, it would seem to be a better way to do things.

Unlimited, uncontrolled free isn’t always the answer when you want to climb up the next rung of the ladder.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: word of mouth marketing

While I can’t speak from personal business experience, I’ll tell you what I think from a customer’s viewpoint – and take it with as much/less credibility as you’d like.

It seems to me that you’re going after the wrong goal – or more specifically, you’re chasing after the means, rather than the ends. The gatekeepers of music are simply another form of word-of-mouth advertising, and they’re effective at it solely because of a large quantity of viewers. Traditional advertising creates profits by maximizing viewers, then drawing sales from a very small percentage of those viewers.

While it’s a good thing to have that marketing power behind you, it’s not absolutely necessary. Remember, your goal isn’t to increase marketing, it’s to increase sales.

You’ve said that you already release your music right away, and let the fans spread the word, which is great to hear. Rather than look for other means to market, try focusing on improving what you already have.

While things like torrents and iTunes are nice for spreading your product, mediums like YouTube are basically the dream for word-of-mouth marketing, because everything that a potential buyer needs is right on hand. If they like a song they’re hearing, they can find out the band instantly. If they read about a band that sounds interesting, they can make a few clicks and sample the music themselves.

That’s really what you should be going after, making word-of-mouth as effective as possible. Make everything about your bands easily accessible, so that any potential customer can find what they want without even thinking. Remember, your biggest competition is the music that a fan already enjoys, so the harder it is to find out about your band, the less likely they are to bother.

Of course, I obviously don’t know what your current marketing strategies are, so you may well be doing a lot of these already.

TehShrike (profile) says:

Leaking songs, yay

I’ve been reading Techdirt for a while now, and this just seems way too appropriate to NOT make a shameless plug…

My band, “The Nebraska Sailing Authority” (we’re so indie that we practice in a giant garage) just got our first song recorded/mixed, out of our own pockets.

We just officially leaked/released it on the internet today – you should totally download it and add it to your library. Or whatever you do with songs you like.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled argument on the usefulness of releasing music on the internet.

eclecticdave (profile) says:

X Factor

Slightly OT but it occurred to me a while ago that the X Factor/PopIdol/American Idol competitions are excellent examples of scarities associated with music.

I would imagine Cowell already makes large chunks of money from these programmes and (if he had a mind to) could easily make this the primary revenue stream and not worry about making money from the music.

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