From the paper – interview with Stephen Witt
How Music Got Free may well be the best book on the music business you’ll read this year
If you only read one fast-paced, enthralling investigative thriller in 2015 about piracy and the music business, chances are it will be Stephen Witt’s excellent How Music Got Free. I’ve read oodles of music business tomes over the years, but no-one comes remotely close to Witt in producing a veritable knock-out read on a topic which is supposed to have been done to death. I spoke to Witt about his great book in The Ticket on Friday and you can read the piece here.
What exactly was Witt’s secret sauce? He put in the legwork and discovered the man who put the piracy business in business in the first place. For years, the music industry was in a total frenzy about who exactly was leaking their music and costing them millions in lost revenue. Someone had to be doing it, someone had to be leaking advance copies of the album to nefarious dudes who would then upload the music to the internet and let the great unwashed download them at their leisure.
The suspect list was a lengthy one. Some thought it was the hundreds of music journalists who received albums in advance of release for review purposes. Such was the industry’s paranoia about reviewers that we became used to onerous security measures including individually watermarked CDs and terms and conditions more applicable to state secrets. All this for a Matchbox 20 CD, eh? Some suspected lowly-paid grunts working in studios. Some even suspected the artists themselves, who would often be give advance copies of their new album to friends or family.
The real culprit turns out to have been working at a much different part of the supply chain in a a place no-one really suspected. The chief leaker, the man who broke the record industry, was Dell Glover who worked in a CD manufacturing plant in North Carolina, smuggled advance CDs out of the factory, often behind an oversized belt buckle, and uploaded them to the wild, wild west online. Dell is one of many colourful characters you’ll find in How Music Got Free.