We know that sales in music world have been declining for decades now, as rates of online piracy soared thanks to those file sharing sites like Napster, Limewire and Kazaa we definitely never used. What is less known is how music made its way onto those sites, and exactly who got it there. That is until The New Yorker introduced us to Bennie Lydell Glover.
Glover is a former CD factory worker, whose job it was to package albums that came through the plant from major music labels. Over years, Glover became the leading source of leaked material to the online piracy group RNS, dubbed by the magazine to be “the most sophisticated piracy operation in history.”
The New Yorker writes that by the end of 2006, Glover had leaked nearly two thousand CDs, including Jay Z’s The Blueprint, Queens of the Stone Age’s Rated R, Blink-182’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket and even forced Eminem to push up the release date for his 2002 album The Eminem Show, when he leaked it more than twenty-five days before its scheduled release.
According to The New Yorker, RNS’s final leak was released on January 19th, 2007. It was Fall Out Boy’s third studio album Infinity on High, and was taken from inside the plant by Glover.
His actions weren’t unknown to law enforcement and in the end, Glover served three months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of felony conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.
It’s a fascinating read, one that sheds light on a practice that changed the way many listeners not only consume music but how they view its value. See highlights from the story below.
Watch: Eminem – Cleanin’ Out My Closet
About the history of online piracy
“Online, pirated media files were known as ‘warez’ from ‘software’ and were distributed through a subculture dating back to at least 1980, which called itself the Warez Scene. The Scene was organized in loosely affiliated digital crews, which raced one another to be the first to put new material on the IRC channel… The ability to regularly source pre-release leaks earned one the ultimate accolade in digital piracy: to be among the ‘elite.’
The beginnings of music piracy via MP3
“In 1996, a Scene member with the screen name NetFraCk started a new crew, the world’s first MP3 piracy group: Compress ’Da Audio, or CDA, which used the newly available MP3 standard, a format that could shrink music files by more than ninety per cent. On August 10, 1996, CDA released to IRC the Scene’s first ‘officially’ pirated MP3: Until It Sleeps, by Metallica. Within weeks, there were numerous rival crews and thousands of pirated songs.”
About piracy group RNS
“RNS was pirating entire albums, bringing the pre-release mentality from software to music. The goal was to beat the official release date whenever possible, and that meant a campaign of infiltration against the major labels.”
“The leader of RNS went by the handle Kali…he built a network of moles who, in the next eight years, managed to burrow into the supply chains of every major music label.”
How their system worked
“Glover would acquire smuggled CDs from the plant. He would then rip the leaked CDs to the MP3 format and, using encrypted channels, send them to Kali’s home computer. Kali packaged the MP3s according to the Scene’s exacting technical standards and released them to its topsites.”
“From 2001 on, Glover was the world’s leading leaker of pre-release music. He claims that he never smuggled the CDs himself. Instead, he tapped a network of low-paid temporary employees, offering cash or movies for leaked disks.”
What he leaked
“Glover leaked Lil Wayne’s 500 Degreez and Jay Z’s The Blueprint. He leaked Queens of the Stone Age’s Rated R and 3 Doors Down’s Away from the Sun. He leaked Björk. He leaked Ashanti. He leaked Ja Rule. He leaked Nelly. He leaked Blink-182’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.
“The high point of 2002 came in May, when he leaked “The Eminem Show” twenty-five days before its official release. The leak made its way from the Scene’s topsites to public peer-to-peer networks within hours, and, even though the album became the year’s best-seller, Eminem was forced to bump up its release date.”
“By the end of 2006, Glover had leaked nearly two thousand CDs.”
Their plan to influencing the outcome of the 2007 sales feud between Kanye West and 50 Cent
“Glover enjoyed both albums, but he was in an unusual position: he had the power to influence the outcome of this feud. If he leaked “Graduation” and held on to “Curtis,” Kanye might sell fewer records. But if he leaked “Curtis” and held on to “Graduation”—well, he might make 50 Cent retire.”
“Glover decided that he would release one album through Kali and the other through RickOne. He offered RickOne the Kanye West album. On August 30, 2007, “Graduation” hit the topsites of the Scene, with OSC taking credit for the leak….On September 4, 2007, Kali released “Curtis” to the Scene.”
But it didn’t really work
“Despite the leaks, both sold well. Curtis sold almost seven hundred thousand copies in its first week, Graduation nearly a million. Kanye won the sales contest, even though Glover had leaked his album first.”
Read the full story via The New Yorker.