Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Protection: Have Jay-Z and Kanye outsmarted the leakers?

The BBC News website gets quite excited by the lengths Jay-Z and Kanye West went to to stop their album leaking:

Billboard magazine reported some of the steps they took - such as storing the music on fingerprint-protected hard drives that were kept in locked suitcases.

To keep hackers out, their producers turned off wi-fi on their computers as the album was recorded in pop-up studios in hotel rooms around the world.

Draft versions of songs were not sent by email. Instead, the duo insisted that all collaborators must come to their temporary studios to record their contributions in person.

The album's art director Virgil Abloh even suggested on Twitter - possibly joking, possibly not - that producer Noah Goldstein had been "sleeping with the hard drives for like 10 months straight".
A man who had been fixing the toilets down the corridor from where one of the recordings took place had his vocal cords removed to stop him singing the songs in the street. Kanye West used selective breeding to create guard dogs crossed with giraffes, that would be unable to bark the beats being used. Seventeen people were disappeared to Central America, only being released again once the album was available. And all the files were password protected with the password "pA55w0rd", which nobody would ever be able to guess.

Lots of fun and games - it must have been like being in Spy Kids 5: The Disappointing Musical - but, almost certainly, pointless, as the key measures were quite simple:
Only a small circle of people had access to the music before it was released on iTunes last Monday, at which point it was delivered to a CD manufacturing plant.
Yes, for all the wi-fi cloaking and circles of toads' blood, if you want to stop a CD leaking don't give it to anyone who might knock a copy off before it's ready to hit the shops.

Of course, easy to do when it's a long-awaited crossover-double-up between Mr. Z and Mr. West. Slightly harder if you're, say, Joe Lean And Jing Jang Jong to persuade your record label to just prepare the presses before they've had a chance to hear what they're going to be releasing. So might not work for everyone.

But did it work for Jay-Z and West?
The album has now broken the iTunes one-week sales record, selling almost 290,000 copies in its first seven days.
That might be down to it not having leaked. Equally, though, it could be down to iTunes having it a week before it was in the shops.

And given the margins are a bit better on physical copies than on digital versions, the duo might have been better off not bothering with the warlock fastening their laptops with a hemlock rope, and just carried on as normal.

But, hey, then how would they have got to play the Hardy Boys?

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