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The Album leak theory: Can piracy be your friend?

November 15, 2012
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First & foremost I encourage and motivate people to support local music. Talent and hard work should be applauded and supported through all avenues it presents itself.

Our music industry has grown to proportions unimaginable through the way it’s consumed & the level of quality it continues to supersede. We have artists that are big because of the music they make yet sadly enough we still hear news of artists dying as paupers. We can’t only attribute that to unscrupulous execs or the rock star life they supposedly lead. Artists should also take blame in the lack of sales they get. There is an international trend, which our artists are vehemently choosing to ignore but there is great rewards to it. It might be fear since its inception to South Africa little or nonexistent. This is the leak/piracy/bootlegging trend.

How many times have you heard an international album has leaked and it continues to sell hundreds of thousand of copies? Drake’s “Take Care” leaked a week ahead of release and still sold 600 thousand in its first week. There is a big chance that a large part of the 600 thousand people already had the leaked version of the album BUT still bought the LP. Point is; an album leak is an undocumented marketing strategy that involves risk and a potential loss to income. In the same breath, the hype created promises to gain more sales & income in terms of new fans achieved & people know what to expect and will want the album. We live in a digital age yet our artists only use the digital platform to relay compliments they get, answer to disapproval from people so they can say they have “haters” and announce an album release within a week.  Our artists are not marketing themselves properly.

A leak when managed is a direct injection of consumers wanting your material. It is an untapped hype machine. A leak spreads quickly; it goes further than the forecast of your marketing team. Our artists feel their job is done when they step out of the booth. That is only the start of your work. As fans we don’t care about your distribution team, we want to support you. We know you, we will hound you for music and only you have the answers. No leak in the history of music has been made obvious, why can’t our artists be as smart? Two of the biggest selling artists in the history of SA music, namely Zahara & the late Brenda Fassie, have their music bootlegged and sold at a lower price at city’s central business district. We even had the funny incident where a Zahara CD had an Aaliyah cover in the streets yet she went to sell over 200k copies.

As a fan there is that feeling of joy and pride in owning an original copy of a CD yet there is that feeling of “is it your worth your money?”. Now if you had a preview in terms of a leak, you guaranteed exceptional quality in the LP and your money is well spent. It is pivotal to your success as a musician in South Africa that you have some sort of idea about how important online marketing is, as a musician you need to learn how to be your own marketer because nobody is going to sell your work better than you.

Every musician can gain new fans just by having some of their existing fans advertise their work. Your fans are an essential part of your success, stop underlying their abilities to convert other people into becoming your fans. You do not always have to leak an entire album, snippets of tracks on your album also build interest in your work, free downloads are also a brilliant way to get your music recognized – especially considering that South Africans love free downloads. Regardless of how hard you’ve worked, people will pirate your music, but look at piracy from a different perspective – turn that which you’re fighting against into something that will work for you in the long term. South Africans are naturally inquisitive, all it takes is one person to say “I like this track” and you’ll have more people trying to find out about you and your craft.

Artists need not only rely on talent alone to survive, business acumen and unorthodox marketing is pivotal in your survival. Leak your album or your pockets will leak.

Written by: Siphiwe Zwane (@siphiwe_junior) & Lerato Mannya (@s2angel_88)

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