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Concerned About Music Piracy & Leaks? Secure Music Sharing Could Have Your Back

Music piracy is disturbing, and rightfully so.

Photo by Troy T / Unsplash

Music piracy is on the rise. Again. So, if you’re worried about getting your music pirated, it's because you should.

Music piracy has been a significant issue in the industry, causing annual losses of around $12.5 billion. While piracy had been decreasing in recent years, partly thanks to music streaming, it started to grow again in 2021. Traffic to music piracy sites is now increasing, largely driven by the growing demand for stream-ripping websites, which allow users to rip and download audio from platforms like YouTube, accounting for 39.2% of all music piracy globally in 2021, according to Music Business Worldwide.

As per the data that Music Business Worldwide has recently shared, unlicensed streaming sites account for 31.5% of all music piracy visits in 2021, while illegal downloads made up 24.3%. The global reach of music piracy is obvious, with the United States, Russia, and India being the top three countries pirating music the most.

Despite the availability of legal streaming services, which are also relatively cheap, a significant portion of global internet users still resort to illegal downloading. So no matter how noble the ambition of Daniel Ek was at the beginning, piracy hasn’t been eradicated by Spotify, and further measures to combat it still need to be taken.

Music leaks — another nightmare of an artist

Piracy isn't the only thing artsits, labels, and rightsholders need to face and constantly fight with. There have been numerous cases of (unintentional?) leaks of not-yet-released albums and songs. Kanye West's debut album, The College Dropout, leaked online before its planned release. Radiohead's iconic album OK Computer faced an early release, and the band's response was officially releasing a deluxe edition with some of the leaked material.

Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy album was leaked by a blogger, who was sentenced to two months of home confinement, one year of probation, and required to appear in an anti-piracy public service announcement. Mastodon's Blood Mountain album was leaked by a retail employee, who was fired sometime later, Lil' Wayne's Tha Carter III album was leaked by DJ Chuck T—the list is nonexhaustive.

And these leaks don't go unnoticed not only for the "leakers" who face fines and legal action but for musicians and their teams as well. Financial losses and loss of control over the release strategy are just a few cases, as leaks undermine potential revenue from official releases, disrupt the carefully planned release timeline, and might even damage an artist's reputation.

Can a music leak turn into a smart publicity move, though?

It might. Although music leaks are generally detrimental to artists and record labels, there have been some instances where leaks have been actually successful for the artist. Controlled leaks have indeed generated buzz and sparked discussions among fans, amplifying anticipation for the official release, but these cases are rare and mostly intentional; most music leaks aren't funny business.

For example, Lady Gaga's song "Stupid Love" was leaked in early 2020, and the artist responded by releasing the song officially a few weeks later, which was well-received by fans and critics.

Another case is American pop star Zella Day's album "Kicker" leak before its official release. It went unnoticed, though, due to her obscurity as a yet-undebuted artist. But it's better to have full control of what, when, and how you release, right? So, if you're not planning to have your unreleased album intentionally leaked as a PR move, at least consider secure music sharing.

What is secure music sharing?

Secure music sharing is the practice of distributing audio files in a way that ensures the content is protected from unauthorised access, leaks, or theft. The good news is that there are plenty of services that can protect your music and securely share it before an official release. They're designed to help musicians, labels, as well as studios share pre-release music, works in progress, or final tracks with internal and external partners while maintaining control over the content and making sure it's not leaked or misused.

How? Byta, for example, offers Protected Links that allow artists to share watermarked music, control restrictions, and track streams and downloads. Other services, like Songbox, co-founded by the Grammy Award winner Bryan Adams, also provide password protection, customisable links, and insights into how the music is being engaged with, like when a file is delivered, whether it has been listened to, and how long it has been played.

"Songbox allows me to share new music that I’m working on in a way that I couldn’t before. I don’t need to send out MP3 files or physical products, so it keeps my ideas and early versions safe and secure until I’m ready to officially release the songs," Bryan Adams shared.

Encrypted music files make it difficult for unauthorised individuals to access and distribute the content and make it harder for pirates to steal and redistribute content, thus minimising the threat of piracy and leaks. Secure music sharing thus helps rightsholders and artists preserve the ownership and exclusivity of music assets, ensuring that record labels and musicians themselves receive proper compensation for their creations.

If you're wondering why it isn't easier to share a file with Dropbox or Google Drive, here's the rationale. Dropbox and Google Drive are excellent for general file sharing, yes, but they don't provide the same level (or none at all) of watermarking, tracking, and password protection that are essential for secure music sharing.

Luckily, there's no need to reinvent the wheel, as the industry has already addressed your concerns.