Three weeks prior to the release of Beyoncé Knowles’ fourth solo studio album, 4, several tracks, then ultimately her entire album, leaked. The “Put A Ring On It” songstress took the upset rather well, vibing off the positive feedback of her large fan base. “My music was leaked, and while this is not how I wanted to present my new songs, I appreciate the positive response from my fans,” the singer wrote, in a statement released to MTV.
Beyoncé’s wasn’t alone. Other albums that recently leaked just weeks before hers were Big Sean’s Finally Famous: The Album and Maybach Music Group’s Self Made Vol. 1.
Album leaks (excluding those inspired by PR motives) are just a small segment of a larger music industry problem: music piracy—any form of unlawful duplication and/or distribution of music. Hence, if you found yourself downloading the leaks and possibly even forwarding the link to friends, you’ve made yourself liable for committing music piracy.
Piracy takes on several different forms, from pirate and bootleg recording to counterfeit recording, and—the method continuously growing in popularity—digital piracy. But all have costly affects with record companies, distributors, and artists losing revenue, as well as consumers whose unauthorized activities can lead to hefty fines and other financial ramifications. Research included in the International Federation of Phonographic Industry’s Digital Music Report 2010 found that 70% of all music consumed in the US, UK, France and Germany came through digital channels, while revenues from digital platforms in those countries accounted for only 35 % of industry revenues. Not to mention, overall music sales falling by around 30% between 2004 and 2009.
“There are people who have fun destroying what other people create,” says a senior music executive at a major label, who did not want his identity known. “People use any way they can. Where P2P [peer-to-peer] used to be the main method, I think now it’s more blog sites and websites but either way it’s all the same.”
Whether you are signed or unsigned, there are ways you can protect your craft and essentially your pockets. As part of our coverage of the business of music for Black Music Month, here are some expert tips on keeping your music safe, from recording to distribution:
Familiarize yourself with the current legislation
Although it’s often times hard to execute the legislation, it is out there and as a producer of your own product you should be aware of it. Browsing through helpful sites, such as the Center for Democracy & Technology, IFPI, and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) can help decipher a lot of the content.
Make sure the recording studio is safe
The studio facilities most successful artists use will be secure, but whether you’re signed or not shouldn’t dictate how safe your music is. Don’t be afraid to ask what sorts of measures a studio owner takes in protecting the space. It may seem inconvenient, but having an active Internet connection in the studio while recording puts you at risk, so be sure to enact a no Internet use policy during your studio sessions.
Keep your hard drive secure and hacker proof
The only way to be completely safe is to have total control over your recordings. Bring your own hard drive and when you’re done in the booth, pack it up with you. “Music studios have more security than an airport, but pay little attention to tech security,” said Gregory Evans, former hacker turned founder of LIGATT Security International.
Weigh the pros and cons when it comes to leaking music
Leaking may seem like an easy promotional method and way to get music lovers, fans and bloggers alike talking about your work, but have you thought about the long-term effects? Once it’s out there, no matter how many sweeps your label makes to clear it off of blogs or free music distribution sites, it will forever exist somewhere online.