- Advance copies of Faith Hill’s new “Cry” album sent by Warner Bros. Records to journalists, retailers and radio programmers included a “watermark” encoded into the disc that identifies each person a copy was sent to. The discs also came with a stern letter from a company lawyer warning recipients not to copy the music or make it available on the Internet.
When Epic Records sent out advances of forthcoming albums by Pearl Jam, Tori Amos and AudioSlave, they were sealed into CD Walkmans with superglue, with the headphones also cemented in so the player couldn’t be hooked up to another device.
How did it work?
The Hill CD is all over the Internet. So are the Pearl Jam, Amos and AudioSlave albums.
So what now?
It’s one of the hottest questions in the music business, both in terms of determining what other security measures can be taken, and what action ought to be taken against those responsible for the breaches.
On the latter, opinions vary greatly.
Warner Bros. sources confirm that they have identified the source of the Hill leak and that legal action for copyright violation is being considered against a journalist. Epic too knows the identities of those responsible for its leaks and is cutting them off from advance access to music.
“Our first step is to contact the individual or company that engaged in the unauthorized distribution of the music to ensure that they understand the gravity of the matter and that they will institute appropriate measures to prevent it from happening in the future,” says Will Tanous, vice president of corporate communications for Warner Music Group, the parent company of Warner Bros. Records. “Beyond that, there are a variety of legal measures that can be taken…. We take these matters very seriously, and we expect our business partners to do the same.”
Meanwhile, a variety of other methods to prevent leaks are being tested.
MCA has made the upcoming album by Sigur Ros available to press only via a password-protected Web site, where the music can be heard, but not downloaded. George Harrison’s “Brainwashed” has thus far only been available for listening in sessions at Capitol Records’ offices, with the CD brought in by Harrison’s sister-in-law and then taken away by her at the session’s end. Not even executives at Capitol or its parent, EMI Music, have been trusted with copies.
That makes it very difficult on those charged with promotion and publicity.
“How do we get the music to [journalists]?” said one major-label publicist, who asked not to be named in this story. “We want them to hear the music. But when we traced a leak, it went back to a journalist. Whoever can come up with the solution, whatever it is, is going to be a wealthy person.”
If it really matters, don’t send out music in advance – simple. Otherwise, enjoy the advance publicity, grin and bear it. If you prosecute journalists and radio people, they will be even more on your side in the great war for the hearts of the listening public. Let’s see, is there anyone else left to alienate.
See here for John Mudd’s post on the leak of the new Nirvana song. By the way, Faith Hill seemed to be performing something akin to rock ‘n’ roll on SNL last Saturday. Thirty years ago it would have been called rock ‘n’ roll. I kind of liked it.