What To Do If Your Album Leaks

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Believe it or not, piracy is still a (very) big deal. Reports estimate that the total amount of media pirated in 2016 was double what was pirated in 2008, and that number is expected to double once more by 2020.

Streaming services, like Spotify and Apple Music, have soothed some of the financial wounds caused by the continued proliferation of music piracy. Artists and label may not love their streaming royalties, but more and more musicians are relying on those checks to keep their dreams alive.

If you are planning to release new music soon, the hard truth is that your latest creation will almost certainly be pirated online. If not prior to release, then immediately following it, and either way the impact on your bottom line can be crush.

At Haulix, we specialize in keeping music safe. Piracy is our top priority, and we are constantly looking for ways to better protect our clients’ music. We even offer free, one-month trial to all new users.

We have made huge strides in fighting piracy, but the fact remains that the vast majority of music still finds its way online through illegal channels. When that happens to you, here’s what needs to happen:

Remain calm

Theft can be a hard thing to wrap your mind around. Album leaks are usually cause for disappointment, but there is a strange sense of comfort to be found in the fact people around the globe want to hear your music so badly that they are willing to risk being in trouble with the law in order to enjoy it before the scheduled release date. That comfort does not take away from the fact those same individuals have completely screwed the carefully crafted marketing plan you had in place, or course, but focusing on the negatives is not going to do anyone any good.

Publicly recognize the fact your album has leaked and ask for support from those who chose to steal it.

Will everyone who downloads your album eventually purchase a copy if they enjoy it? No. What may happen, however, is that a number of people who otherwise may have never encountered your art might come to appreciate your work as a result of the leak, and in time those newly converted followers will begin to show their support by attending a concert, buying merch, or possibly even picking up a record or two. Remember: Your album is as much a product as it is a marketing tool for your brand, and like it or not your band is a brand at the end of the day. If you cannot sell your album to consumers, you might as well try and sell those who take it for free on seeing you live. 

Change your marketing plan

A lot of artists believe that if they choose to ignore the leak of their album and forge ahead with their originally scheduled promotional efforts that their sales will not be hurt. That may apply if you’re someone currently topping the charts, but for those of you on the come up each and every promotional effort made can mean the difference between advancement and career stagnancy. 

Depending on when your album leaks, there may be no changes to make. Albums that leak in the final days before release have typically already exhausted most of their promotional plan. That said, if you’re one of the unfortunate souls to have their album leak weeks or even months in advance you will need to adjust your plan to better engage with the new reality of your situation. Song premieres won’t have the same impact they may have otherwise had, but videos and performances can still engage audiences in a big way.

Make a stream of your album available and direct all traffic to that stream

The best thing you can possibly do in the wake of an unexpected leak is to make your album available for purchase and consumption through channels you control. This means your official website, YouTube channel, Bandcamp, etc. Once your fans learn the album is available they will want to look for it, and it is best if they find it through you on a page that you control. Put the record up, make it easy to purchase, and take back control of the conversation.

As an example of someone taking back control of their release, please take a quick look at this message released by our friends at Topshelf Records following the leak of You Blew It’s new album near the beginning of 2014:

Wow. The response to yesterday’s premiere has been overwhelmingly awesome — thank you!

I noticed a ton of “leaked” copies of the record being shared everywhere within an hour of that premiere going up, though, and just wanted to post about that. We don’t mind that, at all. We get it, and that doesn’t bother us — we’re excited people want to share this. However, when “this” is a 92kbps 2003-Myspace-dot-com-era-quality-sounding rip of a stream, we get kinda bummed how that’s what people might be hearing and sharing. So, we’ve now sent out the high quality downloads to everyone who pre-ordered the record. We’re not gonna be download cops about it — share it, enjoy it, tell your friends about it — sing it when you see them on tour this month.

As always, we’re for damn sure gonna make the record available for download at the more than reasonable price of $5 on bandcamp and as affordable as we can on physical formats (with an immediate download on FLAC, ALAC, MP3 320, MP3 VBR or AAC 256). Also, if you’ve got an iTunes gift card for the holidays and don’t know what the hell to buy with it, well, the record’s for sale there too.

If you haven’t listened to the album yet, you can stream the premiere on Pitchfork now.

Thanks, you guys.

Be proactive in fighting music pirates. Submit take down requests and whatever else needs to be done in order to keep your music away from leak sites.

Haulix simplifies the takedown process and makes it simple to learn who leaked your music. For a free trial, click here.

Fighting an album leak is forever an uphill battle. It only takes one person to leak an album on one site or social media service before files begin spreading like the common cold across the web. You may not be able to completely erase every trace of your early album leak from the net, but with time, dedication, and a little help from Google you can make it a lot more difficult for pirates to locate your stolen material.

First, set up notifications through you favorite digital alert service to notify you anytime someone mentions your album online. You will (hopefully) be inundate with news and reviews most the time, but this service will also peak up leak blogs/sites running your album. You may also want to search for your band name and album title, both together and separately, with the phrases ‘zip’ and ‘rar.’ As soon as you find a link you need removed, contact the blog owner, as well as the site hosting the file download (Mediafire, Sharebeast, Zippyshare, etc.) and politely request that your content be removed with the help of a DCMA take down letter. Then use this form and ask Google to remove links from search. It may take a few days, but most people and sites will comply with your requests. As soon as one goes down, however, another one or three will likely appear. Keep pushing. Keep fighting.

Live to create another day

When all the take downs have been issued and you have told the story of how the leak impacted your plans for the future to the last blogger and fan willing to listen the time will come when you simply need to move on with your career and begin working towards the future. There are more songs to be written, more albums to be recorded, and more many more shows to be performed. People all over the world now have access to your music and no matter what happens from this point forward that will never change. The discovery of your art is going to continue, every day, week, and month for as long as there are people online with a passion for music. There is something beautiful about that, even if it is also financially frustrating, and it offers a rare opportunity to connect with others that many never receive. Make the most of it and forge ahead. Live to create another day.

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.