Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Naming and shaming: what could possibly go wrong?

The Animal Collective album leak - a leak which hardly anyone notice - has given the music industry a chance to demonstrate that the bit some labels put on CDs about the tracks being watermarked isn't just made up, the way some people will shout 'goodbye' when they leave an empty house to try and fool passers-by into thinking there's someone in there:

an e-mail from the band's publicist, Judy Miller, sent to pretty much every other music journalist on the planet, which read, in part:

"Hello friends -

"Sorry to write this one....but.....

"Last week three tracks from Animal Collective's new album leaked. Within minutes, we were able to track the leak to a writer's CD. That person got in more trouble than you care to hear about and was almost fired. The person was also forced to write an apology letter to an entire staff of people and the head of Domino Records along with other penance."

"Penance"? I wonder if the Animal Collective might want to have a word with their publicist and ask her to calm down a little. This sort of glee at someone almost losing their job and being forced to kiss the ring of a record company executive doesn't give me a good feeling about the band. Indeed, if not exactly a Stalinist show trial, the nasty whiff of a kangaroo court hangs over the whole affair.

As is the case with Thou Shalt Not Leak, a website that says it will be devoting itself to:
post[ing] the names, indelible and set out for all to see, of those people who've been given the care of having an early copy of a release and have set that responsibility aside and leaked the record they were entrusted with.

Or "pointing fingers in public", as it is also called.

If you think that sounds a little holier-than-thou, that could be because the site is:
For those of you who vindictively hope i get a libel suit, or who have chosen to out me, or for some reason think i am an evil person, i think your anger is rather misguided. What i don't understand is the lack of respect for the artists you love. I'd love to talk about this side of things, since it always gets pushed to the side.

You prop up this artist or that, and then effectively steal out of their pocket, if not by your download then helping to create a culture where their music loses all value. That artist has put their life, blood, and sweat into making their music, and in one fell swoop a careless person can re-route all the planning they have put in to showcasing that work.

The first thing to note is that JP is very upset that people have revealed his true identity which reminds us of that old Peanuts strip where Charlie Brown wrote a letter to the editor calling on people to stand up and be counted - "signed name withheld".

You have to wonder if this is the RIAA's new anti-piracy initiative - clearly, a bout of public name-calling would be so much cheaper than the legal campaign, and probably just as ineffective.

The other curious thing is that JP suggests that it would be a "careless" person who leaked - which is true, you might accidentally allow other people to access tracks that are supposed to be watermarked - leaving the CD on a desk, having to store it on a shared server, having to pass the album on to a colleague for review, even the watermarked CD disappearing in the post en route to you. Since JP cannot be certain the leak was deliberate, or even down to the person apparently fingered by the electronic fingerprint, and freely admits it might be carelessness rather than criminal intent, should he really be "naming and shaming" people, for all the world like some superannuated News of the World paedophile expose?


5 comments:

M.C. Glammer said...

Has anybody who's ever whined about downloading hurting musicians actually read a recording contract? Perhaps they could all read Courtney Love's Salon article on what's in a contract and who's really doing the ripping off. She may be nuts but she ain't dumb:

http://archive.salon.com/tech/feature/2000/06/14/love/

Anonymous said...

have you ever read a contract not associated w/ a major? huge, huge difference.

M.C. Glammer said...

You mean there are still labels not owned by the majors?

Random R&B Bitch On The Hook said...

courtney's piece isn't exactly all-encompassing (not to mention it owes a lot to that steve albini piece from the early nineties). fact is, a lot of artists (particularly in the uk) make way more than enough money. lily allen, with her moderately successful one major label album, blitzkrieg marketing machine, and giant army of producers, just bought a $600k house. alex kapranos (yes i know he's on domino) bought a similarly priced house after his first album. jay kay is staggeringly rich and has been for about a decade.

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