Jay-Z And Kanye West Go To Ridiculous Efforts To Stop Album From Leaking
from the for-how-much-benefit? dept
One of our usual critics pointed us to a recent article at Billboard about the insane lengths that Jay-Z, Kanye West and the producers of their joint album went through to keep the album from leaking early. The whole thing sounds pretty extreme. They recorded in “pop up” studios they set up in hotel rooms, rather than at real recording studios. Then there were three key engineers who turned off all computer WiFi in the rooms. Collaborators were not allowed to hear tracks outside of the room (so no emailing around tracks for ideas). Everything had to happen in person. Meanwhile, all the work was saved on hard drives locked up in a briefcase. The drives apparently had biometric security, in that you could only access them with a fingerswipe matching fingerprints.
And, amazingly, all of this “worked.” The album apparently was released on time without any leaks. Our critic said this proves that I’m a liar when I say “musicians don’t care about piracy.” Of course, I’ve never said nor implied any such thing. I know that plenty of musicians “care” about piracy. But this story first of all wasn’t about “piracy” so much as it was about leaks. It’s clear from the article that it wasn’t about the economic threat of a pre-release, but how it fit into the marketing strategy. Jay-Z wanted to try to get people to listen to the whole album.
On top of that, all the crazy “CIA” stuff isn’t what stopped the album from leaking. For all the talk of “hackers” breaking into computers and grabbing copies of tracks early, most tracks leak because of one thing: someone in the final processing chain gets the master early and leaks the tracks. The reason this album didn’t leak early was because they delivered the masters as close to the release as possible. Any artist who wants to avoid leaks really just needs to do something like that, and ignore the Mission Impossible crap.
But the larger point is… is something like this even worth it? The article also notes that others may follow suit. But I’m curious if the “cost” really is worth it. It limits the creative freedom (such as emailing back and forth tracks). It does little to nothing to stop actual infringement. All it does is make sure the marketing plan goes down without anyone being able to listen to it early or help promote it on blogs and such when it comes out. If anything it seems to ignore the modern marketing strategy, where new tracks are purposely leaked to get the buzz going. I’m sure the album will do fine, given the two names attached to it. But I don’t’ see how this has anything to do with “piracy,” and I can’t see how any “benefit” outweighs the cost. I have to imagine that if other artists go down this same path, they’re going to discover it’s a waste of time and money for almost no benefit.