Written by Staffan Ulmert, site admin.
In the past few weeks, there’s been some controversy involving members reporting album streams as leaks, with some members stating that an album stream shouldn’t be considered a proper leak.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: as of right now, an album stream is considered a leak according to our FAQ. Now, this might change in the future as we listen to our community. Since we want to reflect how users are downloading and getting their music, we can possibly reconsider the consideration of streams as proper leaks. But since this is a controversial topic, and people are vocal on both sides of the debate, I want to take this time to make a case for album streams and I would like to show how album streams are the first real attempt from the labels to stop hunting down pirates and leaks, and instead embracing the people who are clamoring to hear the albums early.
Has it Leaked is now one and a half year old. Compared to other music publications, it’s nothing – But with the internet, anything that proves to be useful to people or gains popularity (they aren’t always the same thing) tends to stick around. So while the first few articles I wrote were centered around why Has it Leaked is a part of the music culture, we’re now actually a part of the music industry. Not a massive part by any means, but on the other hand, we never set out to compete with the downloading sites either. That would have been the easy way to do it. So when I and the other moderators go through comments each day, we’re not only deleting download links and trying to quiet trolls who are claiming they’ve got the latest album before anyone else – We’re also listening to you.
The one discussion I’ve been following the last couple of weeks have been the discussion regarding album streams – If they should be treated as leaks or not. To be honest, we didn’t really have a rule supporting album streams before this happen, but being an all ruler and a supreme ruler (obviously not really) I modified the rules to include album streams to be part of the leak process fairly recently.
To me, it seems like that it took labels nearly a decade to arrive at a very simple fact: once an album has leaked, it can’t be stopped. While they might have been naive back in the Napster days, it’s incredible to me how stupid the labels have been when trying to stop album download leaks from happening throughout the years. Sure, not sending promo copies to just about every journalist or keeping the album announcement as close to release as possible have been somewhat successful, but still, even with those efforts Has it Leaked exists only because they haven’t been actually listening to the music community. One of the most used techniques have been to shut down the “source of the problem” and hiring so-called web sheriffs. These systems are, of course, flawed. First off, there’s never one single source and secondly, web sheriffs are using the labels to make money off of piracy, while the truth is they are taking advantage of the labels stupidity and trying to discuss the fact that they’ve got no power whatsoever.
So here we are, more than ten years later (Napster started in 1999), and we’re finally seeing the labels actually reaching out to us pirates (or what I would like to refer to us: music fans). We actually get to listen to the full album in high-quality streams (audiophiles aren’t included here, they are on What.cd anyway debating transcodes), and in advance. And I’m not talking about the god-awful promotional and label-tied Pitchfork advance. I’m talking about the labels and bands who are replacing the money they were spending on web sheriffs and hunting down blogs, to actually stream the album when the album leak has either happened or is imminent. Imminent, as in – They’ve sent out promo copies to thousands of journalists and they know it’s bound to get leaked and prepare themselves with an album stream. To provide a very recent example, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories was reported as being leaked on our site, and minutes later the album stream was up, in a real, completely legal form.
They’ve given us an alternative to the free downloads. Because let’s face it, no one here is actually afraid they might get caught downloading illegal files and end up in court – they’ve tried those scare tactics already, and the fact is it doesn’t work. So, let’s summarize the differences between a downloaded leaked album, and an album stream.
+ You get to listen to the album you’ve waited for.
+ An album stream is available on the spot, without any horrible ads or time spent hunting down files.
+ It’s guaranteed to be of high-quality.
+ If you’re sort of handy with a computer, it’s not rocket science converting the stream to actual files.
– It’s not easy to transfer a stream to your music player, IE iPhone or Zune (sorry, an old joke but still funny to me).
– You’ll lose some audio quality when converting the stream to files. And it takes time.
+ You get to listen to the album you’ve waited for.
+ Easy to put on your music player (I would debate it’s the reason why the iPod was so successful in the first place).
+ Often includes the deluxe version, with extra tracks.
+ In some cases, it’s a proper non-transcoded version, and the sound quality is equal to the retail version.
– You’re supporting file sharing sites like Rapidshare or Uploading, who really wants to do that?
– The quality, especially if it has leaked very early, isn’t what the artist intended and lacks the full experience and depth of the final record quality.
– If you haven’t visited Has it Leaked, you might have downloaded fake files and therefore wasted your time, spent money on unlocking fake files or ended up with viruses on your computer. Its easy to get desperate if you’re a fan and scam artists love to exploit people’s weaknesses.
Remember, I’m comparing a download to an album stream – If there’s no stream, it’s another discussion completely. So with that in mind, let’s get back to the purpose of Has it Leaked. I know for a fact that the anticipation of an album, the hype, the speculation…the discussions about whether or not the coming release will hold up or not, are always the most important things being discussed at Has It Leaked. This isn’t a place for debating whether the leaked files come as files that are easily transferable to an iPhone, or if its an exact replica of the retail CD. Fans just want to hear the album, as soon as possible. And we want to give them a place to discuss the album, and possibly to indicate where you might be able to find it before it hits the retail channels.
Or maybe I’m wrong. Am I just simply taking advantage of illegal downloads, and get visitors to push my views of the music industry? Maybe I’m as naive as the labels and think Has it Leaked is more than just a hub to get music for free. I sure don’t hope so, and looking at the album comments I have a point – Since people are debating the music, and not discussing payed versus free music.
But in the end, you’re the ones who call the shots, the fans, the people who are using this site every day. I’m never going to link to downloads or allow links to file sharing sites, but if the labels are actually doing something creative, I’m sure going to listen. Just like I listen to you.
I disagree about the negative point on downloads being of lesser quality, STREAMS are the ones with inferior quality. A cd rip from a pre order that arrived early is the final product the artist intended whereas a stream is a low bit rate version with gaps between the tracks. Otherwise great article.
Yeah, and you don’t have to lose audio quality when converting to files if you’re even more handy with a computer.
Finding the files in your browsers cache is about the only way to do that. But that’s not conversion. Lossy to lossy conversion will always lose more data, and lossy to lossless is pointless.
You find the raw audio then place it in a container and you lose no quality. Easy.
Dude, you can’t guarantee a high quality of a stream.
Very amazes me how things go around here. First the site is only supporting the album as stream. As a site that reports leaks (downloads) don’t want support sharing of files?
And I keep thinking its wrong, even if it is now included in the rules of the site .. reporting stream as a leak. I always thought the target
of the site was to inform if the album was already available for download and not for a stream.
Yeah, the labels are reaching out, but they’ve still got it wrong. Music listening is now highly mobile. In an increasingly connected world, listeners don’t want to be chained to their desks. There should be some kind of mobile solution. If these advance streams were available through services like Spotify or Google Play All Access, they might be onto something.
Also, in the days when leaks were often available in some form MONTHS before street date, you might get cool alternate versions of songs. In fact, I still prefer the leaked version of Radiohead’s Hail to the Thief over the final version.
It’s a very good point to differentiate between a stream and a leak. It’s essentially the record industry acknowledging a leak could happen at any particular time and also allowing those who aren’t tech-savvy to preview the newest music. Contrary to what the RIAA or MPAA would say, most people don’t know much about ripping off albums before they come out, at least not where to get them if they want them to sound right or have minimal difficulty finding them. We, the people who hunt leaks, are still the minority, though we’re probably more known of in concept than how to do what we do is. What I’m trying to say is, it’s good that we make this knowledge available to everyone interested so they can learn about leaks and such. Perhaps a note that an album is streaming should be made as opposed to just saying it leaked, but if the album isn’t available for purchase at retail it’s going to be in the same league as a leak and should definitely be included here.
By the way, am I the only one having trouble posting comments with my HasItLeaked account? Everytime I try to post, it asks me to login despite my having already done so. When I try to login, it opens up another window and my post isn’t there. I had to create a Disqus account to leave this comment, and while that’s fine, I really didn’t want to.
No, your not the only one one the comment issue. By the way, I really hate this new Disqus system for making comments. It is ugly, awkward and just simply sucks! I really, really wish they would go back to the way it was before. Since I’ve brought this up in other sections numerous times previously, it doesn’t look like that is going to happen which really saddens me.
I guess you’re right in a point: Doesn’t really matter if it’s a leak or a stream or anything else. The only thing I really care about is listening to that album that I have been waiting for so long…
I love this website because it’s so good at updating new album leaks. Most of the time these leaks would be hard to find or require large amounts of time searching for them. Streams are easy to find, just google the artist name and album title and google lists it number one in search results under news (usually at the top of the page). Streams receive enough media attention that there is no reason for a hasitstreamed website.
As to whether an official stream counts as a leak or not, I would say that it should simply be distinguished on the album page. The question “has it leaked” should only refer to high-quality CD rips, and there should be another icon for “official stream” with a link.
I always wonder how bad quality links appear. It’s clearly not what the band is releasing so where do they come from?
“audiophiles aren’t included here, they are on What.cd anyway debating transcodes” ZING lol
Maybe when you report leaks and streams you could make a distinction between the two? At the moment, when an album is leaked or is streaming, it is listed as ‘leaked’. Maybe just so it’s clear it could be listed as either ‘streaming’ or ‘leaked’, so people know whether to search for a download version? Great article though.
Streams arent leaks.
“+ It’s guaranteed to be of high-quality.”
not true at all! npr streams mp3s with bitrate equal to or less than 192kbps and from what i can tell itunes uses a pretty low vbr apple file.
I think it’s just a place to find music early. I downloaded the ABR Rescue and Restore album so I could listen to it now, but only after I had already preordered the CD (which probably won’t reach my house on release day anyways)
Good Article. I’m just coming around to the idea of streams as i always need a download, i think simply knowing i own the music in some form is something i crave. That aside, i think releasing streams is a great start. Although even after listening to a stream i get into an even bigger frenzy trying to download the music as i want to listen to it on my ipod on the way home from work etc.
Not regarding leaks, LQ or HQ, a leak is a leak. That said, if the album has not officially dropped yet we have the album in entirety, it’s a “leak.” A NON-leaked album is one where we cannot hear/ have not heard all of the tracks. (IMO)
I’m not big into leaks (I always have such a massive backlog of stuff to listen to that waiting for new records usually doesn’t figure into the picture), but I guess the point of them is, for most people, the same one for which I used to get the common kind of unlicensed record copies: to have a listen. I need to be able to listen to a record at my own pace, repeatedly, before I know whether I think it’s worth spending any money on. If I like it, I go buy it. And since streaming got big, my downloads of unlicensed music have dropped some 95% or more, because it allows me to do just that for which I usually had to resort to piracy. So if what it’s used for is mostly the same, I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be part of this site (even though it bothers me a bit when they’re incorrectly called “leaks”—you might get a pass for this from me only because of the name of your site!)
So yeah, the streaming allows you to do what leaks used to offer. I’d hazard a wager that those folks who are so anticipating records that they’re interested in leaks, are the real music fans who love and support artists they like either way; and not the same people as those who pirate because they’re cheapskates and want to get a record for free. It’s a really nice thing that the streaming services are legal, too, but in the end it’s all down to the fact that it’s quicker and more comfortable than finding and downloading pirated copies. Which makes streaming services probably the first good idea the music industry has had in 30 years. I don’t know if they finally learned that unlicensed copying is a fact of the digital world and never going away. But it sure seems like they are finally starting to learn that if you want to win your customers over, you have to offer the right product at the right quality, and for the right price.
I agree with those commenters who say: cover both, just distinguish between leaked rips and official streams. I can see the point in leaked versions if they’re earlier cuts that you won’t get on a retail release, or maybe if the street date is really several months off. But otherwise, you either like the album or you don’t. If you don’t, a stream is enough to let you realise it; if you do, then a download is a pretty poor substitute for an actual record anyway, no?
By the way, your commenting system seems bugged. The Disqus container doesn’t expand downwards to show more than the first few lines of the first comment. At least it doesn’t for me, neither on Firefox nor Chrome.
What I actually find to be a certain level of comical, is the fact most bands are starting to give up on fighting the “pirating”(its just sharing a file, its not technically illegal if you use the word share) in fact most bands like it, because it allows people to listen to the album for free so they can decide whether or not they like it for sure, and it also promotes their band in one extent or another. I know I personally will download an album, put it on a flash drive, then start passing it around so my friends can either be introduced to something new, or hear what’s been newly released by their favorite band(s). Thats actually why I pirate my music, I don’t want to spend $15 on that special order, just to be dissapointed in the final product.
Exactly — ideally, the only sales that get lost in this process are those which people come to regret, because they didn’t get to evaluate an album properly before they bought it. If an artist or a label is seriously dependent on these “inadvertent” purchases, then there are other, more serious things amiss. They’re not a way to earn fans and generate repeat business.
Although I have to concede in one respect; a point that Pete Townsend has made me realise in a speech of his. Back when radio was the main way people got to evaluate whether they liked an album or not, royalties got paid whether people ended up liking the music or not, via the licensing fees a radio station pays in order to be allowed to play the songs in the first place. This is actually an important aspect if you think about it, reducing the risk of a label’s investment in new, unproven talent; and this part got lost through the surge of evaluation through unlicensed copies. I will also add, however, that legal streaming services have become a viable way of saving that model. When I evaluate an album by listening to it on Spotify, Rdio, MOG, All Access etc., I pay either a flat fee or support it by listening to advertisements — just like a radio station — and royalties are paid regardless of whether I end up liking the music — just like with radio. The goal now is for them to make the entire album hold up so well that I want to buy it, rather than just polish one or two singles to be forced on radio DJs.