Internet leaks of releases by top artists have been giving major labels some major headaches, wreaking havoc with pre-release marketing plans. But in the case of the Boss, the old-fashioned lock-and-key approach seems to be doing the trick, Billboard Bulletin reports.
Bruce Springsteen’s 12th studio album, “The Rising,” is due next Tuesday from Columbia, and efforts to keep album advances under wraps have paid off. Unlike recent high-profile releases like Eminem’s “The Eminem Show” (Aftermath/Interscope) and Korn’s “Untouchables” (Immortal/Epic), pirate copies of “The Rising” have not yet hit the Internet or other illegal distribution channels. Music-recognition service Gracenote — which set off alarms in May when, before its official release, “The Eminem Show” became the second-most popular album played on the Internet — has not shown any plays for “The Rising” a week before its release.
Only a select few journalists have been serviced with advances of “The Rising,” and listening parties were held to allow others to hear the album without receiving personal copies. The only four songs from “The Rising” that have been widely circulated online came from AOL’s “First Listen” promotional campaign, which offered one new stream each week leading up to the album’s release.
An AOL spokesperson says first single “The Rising” was streamed more than 755,000 times in 48 hours, catapulting Springsteen into the top five all-time of AOL’s advance streams. Some enterprising file-sharers have managed to convert the streamed files into MP3s, which are being traded via peer-to-peer services such as KaZaA and Morpheus, alongside poor-quality bootleg files of other album tracks recorded at some of the listening parties. One popular fan site that was hosting such recordings took the files down after being served with a cease-and-desist by the label.
AOL declined to comment on the bootlegged streams, saying only that it posted the fourth and final stream, “Mary’s Place,” yesterday (July 22). The pirated AOL tracks essentially become the Internet’s version of a lead radio single (“The Rising” is No. 22 on Billboard’s Adult Top 40 chart and No. 28 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks tally).
One label executive says the Springsteen and Eminem albums are just the most high-profile cases in what has become common practice among the majors in the past year or two. “Every label has stopped being so carefree with distributing promo records,” he says, noting that many have begun inviting “key” journalists to listen to unreleased albums in the label offices. “The world is changing,” he admits.
And not for the better, according to some media heavyweights. Greg Kot, rock critic for the Chicago Tribune and frequent contributor to Rolling Stone, says withholding advances from journalists is a move that will backfire. A publication, he says, cannot budget space for a review if it doesn’t know if the CD will arrive, and listening parties are no way to evaluate a tune.
“You’re undercutting your chances of getting maximum coverage in newspapers,” he says. “I’ve had to burn a copy off the Internet by hook or crook a number of times in order to get it in time to write a review. That certainly happened with the Eminem record and the Korn record … In the case of Springsteen, or any artist who makes an album that’s touted as a substantial art-driven record, it hurts the artist when labels hold it back. I would think labels would want critics to spend months with these records, and as it is I’m reduced to days.”
As previously reported, Springsteen kicks off a world tour with the E Street Band Aug. 7 in East Rutherford, N.J.