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  • India Wallis

On This Day In Music: Internet & Radio Leaks

On the 30th of May 2005, a week before its UK and US release, Coldplay's ‘X&Y’ album was illegally put on the internet. Copies were sent to UK radio stations the day it was leaked even though there were already security measures around the release, i.e. hosting album playbacks at Abbey Road studios for journalists instead of sending them copies of the album, as well as any CDs that were sent out, were labelled with a false name - The Fir Trees - to throw would-be pirates off the scent. The record label EMI tried their best in preventing the new songs from being illegally distributed over the net but was unsuccessful as music fans began freely downloading the 12 tracks from the band's eagerly awaited third album within minutes of its being posted on websites.

Copyright: 2005 Getty Images

“The illegal file-sharing of ‘X&Y’ emphasises the helplessness of mighty global corporations pitted against the piratical power of the internet. Artists including Madonna, U2 and Eminem have been forced to bring forward album releases or offer free tracks on websites after songs appeared online before reaching the shops.”

Patrick Barkham, The Guardian (1st June 2005)

Two years later, on the 30th of May 2007, a leaked copy of the new White Stripes album 'Icky Thump' was played completely on Chicago's radio station Q101-WKQX. Jack White personally called the US radio station from Spain, where he was touring, to voice his displeasure and give the station DJ Electra a verbal beatdown, asking her if she was sorry for what she'd done, to which she wasn't. "Someone gave us a copy of a record that we were really excited to play," the shaken DJ wrote on her blog. "The whole experience was an hour-long lovefest for him and his band."

The White Stripes 'Icky Thump' Album. Photo credit: Autumn de Wilde

Music leaks date back to the early 2000s in the beginning days of the internet with platforms such as Napster and MySpace. When music was leaked, millions of music fans were able to illegally download poor-quality, mp3 audio files to their hard drives and share them.

The most famous leak circulated in 2000, when Metallica’s drummer Lars Ulrich became aware of a leaked demo of their track ‘I Disappear’ that was playing on several radio stations around America. The leak was eventually traced back to Napster, and the infamous Metallica v. Napster, Inc. legal battle began. The case rose to national prominence with Ulrich becoming an outspoken defender of artists whose work had been illegally distributed for free. Napster lost the case and went bankrupt two years later, but that didn’t stop artists’ music from being leaked. Unfortunately, leaks became more normalized in the music release process.

More recently, Lady Gaga’s ‘Stupid Love’ track was leaked three weeks before it was due. Gaga’s team was made aware of the leak but chose to charge ahead, releasing the single when it was due along with the accompanying music video. Less than a month later — and two weeks before her album was due — Dua Lipa took to Instagram live to announce that her sophomore album had leaked. Ultimately, Lipa opted to release the album early, pushing the release date forward.



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