My Life As A Music Pirate (Part 3)

This article is the third in a four-part series on piracy. Click here to read the previous entries.

We love creating content for this blog, but the true mission of Haulix has always been to provide the most secure music hosting and distribution services available online. It’s no secret that piracy has crippled the music industry in many ways over the last decade, and we strive every day to do whatever we can to prevent future music leaks. You see, we may not be musicians ourselves, but recognize that the livelihood of everyone in the music business is dependent on the continued success and support of the artists we sign, promote, and otherwise get behind. If we do not do our part to help them support themselves however we are able then how can we expect anyone to help us when piracy eventually erodes entire segments of the industry?

Recently, it dawned on us that we did not have a strong grasp on what actually makes someone want to leak music. The assumption has been made in the past that these so-called ‘music pirates’ think the praise from anonymous commenters on message boards and forums is enough of a reward to convince them to hurt artists and those who fund them, but frankly we thought that felt a bit too simple to be entirely true. So we decided to do something we had never done before: Seek out a music pirate and convince them to share their story.

This afternoon we are thrilled to share the third in a four-part series that aims to take a closer look at music piracy as seen through the eyes of someone directly responsible for the leaks of several high-profile albums. It’s the story of one individual who managed to engrain themselves in the music industry professionally while simultaneously sharing unreleased records with the world, and it’s told entirely in their own words.

**As part of our agreement with the author of this series, a number of names and websites have been altered to protect identities and certain brand reputations. We have no intention to reveal the author’s name or location.**

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When I began my first music-related blog. I had no real appreciation for music journalism or how that sort of thing worked. I just wrote about bands I liked and offered free downloads of their songs via filesharing websites like Mediafire and MegaUpload. It seemed innocent enough and as far I was concerned, I was doing these bands a favor. Free publicity! So that’s what I did. I downloaded songs, re-uploaded them, wrote blurbs, and shared them around.

Through this, my blog saw some success. A few hundred hits here and there added up. I made friends with others who ran similar sites like BrokeNoise, It-Leaked, MP3Boo, Get an Earection, Strike Gently, and a crudely named site I would later admin called LeakySlut. It was a community. We raced against and supported each other. This is what made it fun.

I ran LeakySlut, my own blog, as well as a forum or two for over a year. The first taking priority as a direct competitor to Strike Gently’s fall into poo porn and t-shirt sales. I leaked music and I was good at it. When we got a hold of things early, we’d upload the tracks laced with ID3 tags sporting our brand and push them out to the masses. I pushed the site to my friends and on Internet message boards. When I visited universities I would change the “ready” prompt on printer displays to “leakyslut.com.” I left the site open on public computers. The name alone generated enough interest to click around. When someone asked if it was porn they were looking at, a person would have to show and explain that it wasn’t. The site was self marketing. When I came aboard in fall of 2010, I took a blog posting once or twice a day and turned it into the new #1 source for music leaks in the alternative music community. This was something I was very proud of and later ashamed of. The thrill of delivering copyrighted content to thousands of fans hungry for it felt good, if only for the minutes following the initial post. I felt like I was doing something worthwhile. I thought I was part of the process when, in actuality, I was hindering it.

LeakySlut is gone now. It began to fizzle out once I left for more legitimate work. In spring of 2011, I left the leaking game and never looked back.


A week after leaving LeakySlut, I started an editor’s gig at a music webzine. No more links to zip files and mp3s. Just words on sounds. I had shed the peg leg and eye patch and it felt good. It was every bit as exciting as what I did before, only constructive and beneficial for the artists that I wrote about.

Now I didn’t have to go to sketchy sites to download songs. Instead I was getting albums sent to me unsolicited because I just might listen to it and write about it. I felt important. The feeling here lasted much longer than it did with leaks. I didn’t have to worry about links getting broken because of DMCA takedowns or emails from labels threatening legal action. The words were enough and they were eternal.

I still write about music today. I’ve contributed to a number of publications and haven’t leaked an album in almost 5 years. I’ve never even considered it. I’m in a place where artists, managers, and publicists trust me with their livelihood. They send me their songs trusting that I won’t put them online. I know that doing so could seriously jeapordize their marketing plans and corresponding income. I’m bigger than that. I’m not a villian. I’m a fan of music. Promoting and sharing my taste with others is reward enough. The perks of music journalism are just a plus.


Do I still download music without paying for it? Certainly. But thinking back on the last year of my life in music, I can’t think of a single instance where I didn’t later purchase the artists’ full release. If I want to hear a song now, I can pull up Rdio and listen to it. I pay $10/month to the service and the artist gets a small payout for the play. If I love it, I’ll seek it out on vinyl to add to my collection. I take up Soundcloud download offers when I find them and only rip songs from streaming services if they are no longer available (I’m still an avid demo hunter).

My life as a digital pirate is drawing closer and closer to an end every year. With advancing technology and a deep sense of admiration and respect for my industry’s peers, I have no need for it anymore. I think that this rings true with a lot of fans as well. A majority of the sites I named about no longer exist due to a lack of interest. Even the existing torrenting communities like what.cd are withering away with declining traffic and membership.

In the end convenience is key and if there are better, more legal, alternatives for listening to music, people will take them. Streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, and YouTube are clear indicators of that. The benefits to these serves opposed to piracy are numerous and are topic for another day.

I’m not completely ashamed of my piracy history. It got me to where I am. I learned valuable lessons about art and property through my experience and I think I’m better for it. The Jolly Roger has been lowered and my tri-cornered cap has been hung in the locker of Davy Jones. I won’t be fetching it again.

Savvy?

x Rackham

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.