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Discrepency surrounding leaked music serves as a source of controversy for DJs and casual listeners alike.

ORANGE MEDIA NETWORK ARCHIVES

Leaked music: Allegory of the cracked pot
The station manager’s defense of listening to leaked music
BY AMEER T. FOFANAH
KBVR-FM Station Manager
In the modern first world our
patterns of media consumption
orbit vastly around the concept
of the “release date”. The next
season of that show you’ve been
binging on Netflix, the newest
episode of your favorite podcast,
maybe even some content your
own friends create. This makes
sense; in an age defined by the
importance of information we
live lives that are greatly dictated by when said information
will be released for us to mindlessly gobble. This holds particularly strong implications for
the producers, those who make
their livings creating the media
that we so deeply covet. These
people, the gatekeepers of our
media consumption habits, depend on the demand for their
content as not only a source
of notoriety but sometimes as
their entire means of survival.
This will be a big factor later in
our discussion.
Speaking on music in particular, this cycle of release dates
is a vital aspect of how the music industry functions. Media
and blog coverage surrounding
artists spikes greatly during periods of newly released music
(rivaled only by periods of controversy: Kanye West is great at
doing both at the same time)
which naturally causes increases in engagement for the artists.
On top of this, the industry relies greatly on “charts” as a metric of success, aggregations of
popular music detailing which
songs are being played most
within a given period of time.
These charts are then published by big names in the

music coverage world (think
Billlboard or Spotify). Charts
then further inform the music
distribution sector (radio, YouTube channels, etc.) about what
people are currently listening
to, further reinforcing these
listening habits. On top of this,
music record labels intentionally release music on dates that
coincide with cultural events
such as seasons, award shows,
and holidays to attain marketing advantages when they advertise. So yeah, releases dates
are a big deal.
This all sets us up to delve into
the meat of our discussion: a
well documented phenomena
known as a “leak”. One might
wonder, what is a leak? A leak
is when information that is
intended to be confidential is
compromised, either internally
or externally, and released to
public. In the music industry,
music leaks disturb the delicate
balance of calculated musical
release dates. Not only does this
make the music available early
but also allows for music that
was intended for consumption
via either subscription or sale
to be consumed illicitly for free,
usually on the internet. Being
as though the music has essentially been stolen and released
against the will of the people
producing it, it raises an interesting question to be addressed
by us listeners: is it okay for us
to listen? Does listening to this
music contribute harmfully to
the artists career?
What about their creative
process? To illustrate the scenario, I would like to use a sim-

ple analogy: So let’s imagine
we have a small village. In this
small village there is a doctor
who runs an apothecary where
they make medicines and store
them in pots. Naturally, they
want to contain this medicine
because resources in the village are scarce and exposure
to the elements might disturb
the substances being stored.
But let’s say that one day someone makes a tiny crack in a pot
that contains a highly coveted
medicine. Different villagers
eventually catch wind of this
and continually come and take
small amounts of the potion
that is leaking from the crack. Is
this okay?
The answer may seem like an
obvious “no”. After all, they are
not only damaging the doctor
by taking from them without
compensation, but also stealing
leaves less for the good villagers
who actually pay for their medicinal needs. Because there is
only so much that can be made,
you are not just stealing from
the doctor but stealing from everyone. Stealing is wrong; it disrespects the doctor, the time the
doctor spent making the elixir,
and the apothecary as an establishment.
And music does not function
like this at all.
The argument that listening to
leaked music is akin the theft of
a physical object at best slightly
off-base and at worst borderline absurd. Let us not forget
that one of the fundamental
concepts that allots value to an
object is scarcity; how much is
available? In our little analogy

the medicine is finite as it is
created from scarce resources.
This makes the medicine extremely valuable to the people
of the village. In the modern
day, however, recorded music
is most often accessed via mp3
files i.e. information. Information may be the least scarce resource known to man today. It
can be created, replicated, and
stored at virtually no cost. This
tackles the assumption that
the listener of leaked music is
somehow doing a disservice to
society as a whole.
The next factor to take into account is the notion that you are
stealing from the artist.
Make no mistake, you definitely are. But at such a small cost to
the artist themself that it hardly
seems to matter. This is due to
how the industry functions. In
the realm of streaming (Apple
Music, Spotify, etc.) the holders of the “rights to the music”
(which may be some mixture of
the artist, songwriter(s), record
label, and producer) make fractions of a cent per stream. What
little is made through streams
usually doesn’t even touch the
artist’s hands for the most part.
Artists also usually only make
around 10%-15% of album sales.
If you want to support an artist
financially your best best bet
is to buy their merchandise and/
or see them in concert. Let us
not forget that by playing an artists leaked music you are still, in
fact, playing and enjoying their
music. This on some level is
boosting their exposure, doing
them a tiny service.
Finally we have the third, and

possibly the most valid, argument: that you are damaging
their creative process. Sometimes music is leaked before
the project is deemed finished
by the artist. For perfectionists,
this is as damning as anything
could be; their own work is being shown to the world before
it is ready. I believe that this is
absolutely terrible, a great reason why you should not leak
people’s music. But once it is
already leaked I see no problem. Just as seeing trailers for
half-finished films serves as a
tantalizer for the finished product, leaked unfinished music
makes us covet the whole thing.
Lil Wayne’s “Carter III” is a famous example of an album that
is considered to have benefited
from having had leaked prior to
its release.
In summation, please do not
take this as a manifesto explaining why it is okay to leak other
people’s art. It is after all, theft;
illegal and unethical. This, instead, is meant to serve as something of sobering wake-up call
for those of us who do partake
in the listenership of music that
has already been leaked previously and had some preconceived notions that this should
be a source of guilt. In the internet age information flows freely,
not online droplets in the ocean.
With so much water around, I
simply find that there should
be no shame taken in taking a
drink.*
*ocean water is high in salt
and should not be consumed
for hydration purposes.

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