Music being readily available online before being released has been the bain of the music industries existence, but could this be the beginning of the end for album leaks. Well, maybe if you can afford to give your engineer(s) a Rolex. That’s just one of the measures taken by all star duo Kanye West and Jay-Z to avoid early leaks of their collaborative album “Watch the Throne”.
Beyond the good will – or bribe if you choose to see it that way – of a rolex, the duo took a mission impossible approach during the production process. All sessions were stored on external hard drives which required finger prints to be accessed and these were then transported in a brief case by the designated members of the team. One can only at this point picture dark shades, black gloves and Neo’s trench coat from the Matrix. Further measures included ensuring wifi was off on computers using public wifi networks and no email communication of songs, ie between producers and artist as works in progress.
But are these measures all that necessary, leaks do not always seem to damage the sales of big names. Their justification is that it’s not so much about the leaks themselves but more the experience as listener, recapturing the forgotten age of unwrapping a CD and hearing 95% of the music on there for the first time.
With that said CD’s took a major back line in their distribution channels. Essentially, pretty much all leaks happen due to physical copies of albums. Digital release has taken priority exclusively via iTunes with only one chain getting physical distribution shortly after the iTunes release, before being made available to the masses later in the month. Not only that but they have also limited what has been available to radio and such in terms of promos.
But of course this is only practical if you already have an established following. Starving the media from sharing your music with the masses as an emerging artist just isn’t practical and it is almost certain that labels won’t be implementing such strict distribution measures with those they are trying to brake through.
Regardless, the industry as a whole has lessons to learn from this. Time’s have been changing for over a decade yet the industry still seems to be holding on to old methods of operation. The key is not to sue every IP address caught “illegally” acquiring your music, the key is to just get smarter and more creative in methods as the duo have illustrated. Of course, preventing an album leak is not going to prevent file sharing once released, but it is a big start.