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Pink Elephants, Album Leaks, and The Industry's...

Posted by: Jason Tate (01/31/12)
There's a giant pink elephant in the room. Look behind you, see him in the corner? He's just sitting there. His name is "highly anticipated new album that just leaked on the internet." I was recently reading this blog post about Hollywood imposing a 56-day "no rental window" on new movies - and it got me thinking about how the music industry (for the most part) continues to construct their own 'window of stupid' on albums once they leak. I think we can all name albums that are available, right now, on the internet for free - and yet there's no way for fans to purchase them or legally stream them. The quote from Matt Drance remains perfectly applicable, in my opinion, to the music industry:

Also under this new deal, pirated movies remain free of charge, free of non-skippable ads, free of five-minute load times, and are now nearly three months ahead of the competition. iTunes changed the music industry because it was more convenient than stealing. Most people made the value judgment that ten bucks for a clean, legal digital album was worth the alternative of fishing around for files that may or may not be damaged or infected.

I understand that album sales should not be what labels (or bands) use as a metric for success - however, I am continually shocked by how much better the product is for "stealing." As someone that runs a music website, based around a forum and discussion for music, most of our user-base is talking about an album before there is anyway for them to legitimately purchase the album and listen to it ... how does this not incentivize downloading it? I would think that smaller labels (compared to the bloated major labels) would use their mobility as a competitive advantage and move quicker to close this gap. Yet, time and time again - we don't see any movement.

It's as though if they pretend it didn't happen - it'll just go away.

What if an album leaked (it's going to happen early for 99% of albums) - and almost immediately it hit Amazon and iTunes? What if the pre-orderers immediately were given download code access and the physical shipped out as soon as they were ready? What if the album hit Spotify, Rdio, and a stream went up on youtube (which can be monetized), or even on websites like AP.net, soon after? Maybe I'm selfish - but I think that the discussions that would come from everyone being able to (legally) listen to an album together would be fantastic. I think the experience would be better. And I think if this were more normalized - the "power of the leak" would be, to some degree, neutralized. And then all of us would stop looking at the pink elephant in the room and trying to pretend he's not sitting over there. Cause it's really fricking awkward.
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 85
10:10 AM on 01/31/12
#2
Lueda Alia
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I don't see him?!?!?!?

Might have to change my prescription for my contacts/glasses.

OH WAIT......
10:11 AM on 01/31/12
#3
Jason Tate
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I don't see him?!?!?!?

Might have to change my prescription for my contacts/glasses.

OH WAIT......
10:15 AM on 01/31/12
#4
Christian Wagner
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Adapt. ADAPT.
10:20 AM on 01/31/12
#5
Zack Zarrillo
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We both seem to love MG quite a bit.
I find the whole Hollywood thing to be unbelievably believable. It'll hurt them hard, and it'll take them years and years and years to recover once they screw themselves. But we'll see

I think some labels handle albums really well, and some just really really don't. I think the biggest mistake of the entire year will be EVR/Bemis not making any sort of statement regarding the leak and not moving the pre-order up to the day after it leaked. I realize those things can take time, but there's no excuse in my mind to let album sales get, potentially, seriously hurt when there might be ways to save face.
10:29 AM on 01/31/12
#6
Jason Tate
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We both seem to love MG quite a bit.
I find the whole Hollywood thing to be unbelievably believable. It'll hurt them hard, and it'll take them years and years and years to recover once they screw themselves. But we'll see

I think some labels handle albums really well, and some just really really don't. I think the biggest mistake of the entire year will be EVR/Bemis not making any sort of statement regarding the leak and not moving the pre-order up to the day after it leaked. I realize those things can take time, but there's no excuse in my mind to let album sales get, potentially, seriously hurt when there might be ways to save face.
You can search tumblr or twitter and see countless posts from kids talking about the album. Most of it praise, actually, (compared to the general forum reaction here) ... but the idea that there are literally thousands of people talking about a band/album and you can't legally buy it ... seems downright insane to me.
10:46 AM on 01/31/12
#7
blimpcityhero11
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It's ridiculous that most labels just refuse to acknowledge a leak these days. Despite all they do, it's going to happen. Honestly, I'm sure the biggest stars (I'm talking of the Coldplay, Lady Gaga, Kanye variety) don't even care much about how much their album grosses because it's such a miniscule aspect of their earnings when their tours end up grossing in the millions of dollars.

On the other hand, you have smaller bands and artists that are barely scraping by while trying to make it. I understand production timetables and what not, but I think it's ridiculous how long some albums sit on the shelf before they are released. Personally, I still enjoy buying physical copies. The majority of people are clearly going digital, a medium that can support a final mastering-to-release in a matter of days.

The music industry can't model itself after the movie industry. Sure, you can do your promotional work and maybe release a single or two as the "trailers" for the album, but why send out the album en masse to the proper outlets weeks or months ahead of time? It's going to leak. I understand the whole dilemma of the timetable for magazine reviews, but an album's success is not contingent on the timeliness of sales. There seems to be such an importance of a big promotional push to garner big first-week sales for albums. While this may be feasible for the bigger artists, it only serves to hurt the rest of the industry when their album inevitably leaks. Leave it to the audience to dictate success and spread awareness with reviews, promotion, etc. as a secondary tool to possibly garner a larger audience. Obviously, social media is incredibly powerful. With tools like Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, blogging etc., albums seem to take a life of their own these days. In the music industry of today, success doesn't have to be time-bound.

/long rant
10:48 AM on 01/31/12
#8
Thomas Nassiff
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Some bands - Man Overboard has done it the best recently - are very good at adapting to the leak. You have to have the materials prepared for it the second the album is finished. An independent label should, on the day of the leak, send the record out to the kids who preordered it, get it bumped up on iTunes, Amazon and wherever else they distribute their digital content, and also begin shipping the preorders (this depends on how early the leak is. sometimes not realistic) right away. Make it so that people can order the vinyl or whatever and get it shipped right away. There is no better time for a consumer to buy something than the first time they listen to something they enjoy. You have to do everything you can to cash in on that one specific moment.
10:52 AM on 01/31/12
#9
Thomas Nassiff
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To contrast, Equal Vision handled the Say Anything leak about as poorly as I can imagine. To have a record leak early in the morning, then see 5 p.m. come and pass without so much as a peep about the situation from the record label, is kind of embarrassing in my opinion. I really like the people at that label, but it seems like their mindset about that situation was a bit medieval.
10:58 AM on 01/31/12
smelltheglove
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I can understand how the physical album might not be able to ship due to a leak (it might not be pressed yet or whatever) and I know labels want their marketing timeline and marketing push to be unaltered due to a leak, but leaks happen and I think your suggestion is completely logical...release the digital version of the album immediately. It would clearly mitigage some of the revenue losses. I know I'd go buy the new Say Anything off iTunes today if I could, I mean i'm already going to iTunes to buy the new HTL today.

Because this "pretend it didn't happen" bullshit is not only going to cause a album sale revenue loss, by the time the album is released, listeners may be "over it", over the original buzz of the new release, and by the time the album legally is released...the people that would have bought it legally at iTunes (if only they had the option) are over it and no longer want to buy it, i.e.

"yea i illegally downloaded the new Say Anything..but i liked it and would have bought it off iTunes if it was available...but then a month went by and I don't know anymore...i don't think i'm gonna buy it anymore"

And have a marketing team that's savvy enough and quick enough on their feet to shift the album "push" timeline up. Maybe prepare for leaks and plan out the marketing campaigns well ahead of release date, so if there is an early leak, you just greenlight the timeline shift and things proceed as normal, with the exception of the physical release?

I mean surely absolutepunk.net would be open to running banner ads for new releases earlier than originally planned if the label paid you to run it early? I can see from the marketing angle how it could get complicated, i.e. the marketing team wants to push the album early due to a leak, but absolutepunk.net already has the ad space booked for the month? not that this is the only place for bands to run an ad...

could you be flexible with that Jason? If EVR wanted to put a Say Anything ad up today annoucing it's now available at iTunes, could you techncially make it happen?
11:00 AM on 01/31/12
be mine
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I think the problem is with distributors of the physical product. I believe that you would have to go to them for permission. Putting an album out months ahead of time digitally would in the end hurt the physical product distributor. However this is an old fashioned way of thinking and once we rid ourselves of physical media this wont be a problem and the world that Jason Tate wants to live in can come to pass.
11:00 AM on 01/31/12
ramomcferno
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Yeah I think this is a great point. I agree that this would be the most beneficial way to do things. I also think they need to continue to make it as difficult as possible to download these leaks. Slow download speeds, poor quality, and fake files. The more frustrating it is to access the leaks more likely people would be to download a legal copy of the album.
11:01 AM on 01/31/12
Jason Tate
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I can understand how the physical album might not be able to ship due to a leak (it might not be pressed yet or whatever) and I know labels want their marketing timeline and marketing push to be unaltered due to a leak, but leaks happen and I think your suggestion is completely logical...release the digital version of the album immediately. It would clearly mitigage some of the revenue losses. I know I'd go buy the new Say Anything off iTunes today if I could, I mean i'm already going to iTunes to buy the new HTL today.

Because this "pretend it didn't happen" bullshit is not only going to cause a album sale revenue loss, by the time the album is released, listeners may be "over it", over the original buzz of the new release, and by the time the album legally is released...the people that would have bought it legally at iTunes (if only they had the option) are over it and no longer want to buy it, i.e.

"yea i illegally downloaded the new Say Anything..but i liked it and would have bought it off iTunes if it was available...but then a month went by and I don't know anymore...i don't think i'm gonna buy it anymore"

And have a marketing team that's savvy enough and quick enough on their feet to shift the album "push" timeline up. Maybe prepare for leaks and plan out the marketing campaigns well ahead of release date, so if there is an early leak, you just greenlight the timeline shift and things proceed as normal, with the exception of the physical release?

I mean surely absolutepunk.net would be open to running banner ads for new releases earlier than originally planned if the label paid you to run it early? I can see from the marketing angle how it could get complicated, i.e. the marketing team wants to push the album early due to a leak, but absolutepunk.net already has the ad space booked for the month? not that this is the only place for bands to run an ad...

could you be flexible with that Jason? If EVR wanted to put a Say Anything ad up today annoucing it's now available at iTunes, could you techncially make it happen?
Of course. Hell, they'd have captured free publicity for it going up early and all that. The news posts about it + forum discussion would be priceless.
11:03 AM on 01/31/12
Zack Zarrillo
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You can search tumblr or twitter and see countless posts from kids talking about the album. Most of it praise, actually, (compared to the general forum reaction here) ... but the idea that there are literally thousands of people talking about a band/album and you can't legally buy it ... seems downright insane to me.
Yep. I don't even think it matters about whether kids like it or don't like it -- Max so easily could have written up a long post, in typical Max form, asking for kids to respect the band that they care about, and he wouldn't have gotten anything but praise. Statement should have been released with the pre-order, and they would have made up as much ground as they could.

They 1) Lost countless amounts of money (more than they would have if they launched preorder asap) and 2) potentially just wrecked the course of the band -- We've seen it happen countless times before with early leaks

It's just frustrating because it could have gone so differently. It's not like the lead singer of the band is a douchebag with a small fan base calling kids out for downloading their album. It's a big band, with a cult fan base. It's just dumb

The only person involved in the band whatsoever to release a statement was Sherri
11:06 AM on 01/31/12
nickstetina
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Wow. Didn't even realize 'Anarchy, My Dear' release date was set so far ahead. March 13th!? Everyone is going to feel so familiar with this record like they've had it for years by the time its official release rolls around.
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