Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Why MP3 was not the magic number for De La Soul

Some spanners in the works for the Daisy Age hip-hoppers’ grand giveaway

Say no go: De La Soul

Fri, Feb 21, 2014, 09:45


It must have seemed like a great idea at the time. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of their seminal debut album “3 Feet High & Rising”, hip-hop veterans De La Soul decided to allow fans to download their back-catalogue on Valentine’s Day in return for an email address. Three cheers for De La Soul, went the internet.

But the internet was soon booing and hissing De La Soul. The group were unable to provide enough bandwidth to cope with the excessive demand and their Dropbox account quickly collapsed under the strain.

Worse, some detective work showed that the band had sourced the giveaways from pirated copies of their own albums. De La Soul albums may not have been available to purchase from the various legal download stores, but MP3 was the magic number if you knew where to look.

It’s hard to gauge what the band were doing here beyond a publicity stunt and a well-meaning campaign which went badly awry. The band will point to the fact that they got loads of coverage but, as is so often the case, it was short-term and fleeting. Is the great De La Soul giveaway of February 2014 likely to be one of the music business stories of the year? I think you know the answer to that.

It also makes you think again about the value of music. Over the years, De La Soul have created some amazing work so to give it all over in this haphazard, careless way in return for an email address strikes one as foolish.

Sure, the revenue may come now from live shows and merchandise rather than flogging pieces of plastic, but there is still a lot to be said for a legacy and what comes with that. Taking the time to protect that may be a far more worthwhile endeavour than giving away the farm for a fake email address.