Some time between Saturday night and Sunday morning, the entirety of Drake’s Take Care, the followup to his breakout 2010 debut Thank Me Later, found its way onto the Internet.
As news of the leak spread, Twitter exploded with chatter about it, and while any artists get extremely rankled when their music gets out prior to the release date (and, of course, for free), Drake himself was pretty casual about it. “Listen, enjoy it, buy it if you like it…and take care until next time,” he tweeted late last night.
The idea of an album leaking isn’t really a story. After all, pretty much everything leaks, and the timeline for Take Care is about right (the release date is next Tuesday, November 15, which means the finished album probably got lifted somewhere along the lines of production).
Drake’s casual reaction is the right one. After all, if people hadn’t gone out of their way to leak his album, that probably means people weren’t interested in the first place. An album leak is something of a validation, and though it may also feel like a backhanded (and bad for business) compliment, it still tells the artist, “You are big enough to steal from.”
It will probably cost Drake a little bit in album sales, but research shows that for a guy in Drake’s position, leaks don’t have as negative an impact as you might think — the logic being that people who will download the leak were unlikely to purchase the album in the first place. Plus, considering Drake himself had unleashed no fewer than six of the tracks from Take Care himself (including “Crew Love,” which showed up on Saturday on a radio station in Toronto), there was already plenty of Drake music out there for people to take.
In reality, it’s a bigger story when albums don’t leak. The most famous recent example of that was Watch the Throne, Kanye West and Jay-Z’s superstar collaboration album. Considering hip-hop records are usually the first in line to leak, the fact that Watch the Throne wasn’t available to anybody in its full form until the on-sale date is pretty amazing — and pretty labor intensive.
Sadly, the Watch the Throne approach isn’t easily replicated. Staggering the release was an excellent idea (the album was available to purchase as a download on a Monday, and the physical CD was available on Friday, so during the entire shipping process — where many albums find themselves leaking — the album was available as a paid download), and journalists only got a single listen to it in an isolated space, which meant that there weren’t any dangerous promo copies floating around.
In the lead-up to the release of Watch the Throne, the security process was thorough but also prohibitively expensive. Throughout the album’s production, West kept control of all the master tracks, and he never let the files out of his sight. If he wanted a producer or an engineer to work on something, that person had to be in the room with West, which often meant that people were flying all over the world just to do a day or two of work on WtT.
When you have a Kanye-sized budget, you can afford to spend thousands on airfare as a way of protecting your work, but West and Jigga are just about the only people with the sort of bankroll who can invest in that sort of protection.
Still, the first part is an excellent idea, and more artists should make their music readily available at download stores just in case the leak occurs. Even if a small percentage of people spend their cash for a download, that’s more than you were walking away with before. At the moment, you can’t even pre-order Take Care on iTunes, which seems like a bit of a mistake on Drake’s camp’s behalf. But again, it’s hard to get riled up about it, especially when you’ve got Kendrick Lamar on the offensive for you.
Everything leaks. That’s the world that we live in now, with high-speed Internet at every turn and armies of hackers looking to one-up one another with their digital discoveries. Getting angry and reactionary only makes you look out of touch.
Drake’s music is out there, but he knows that he got to where he was by working hard and establishing a deep rapport with his audience, and that should pay off for him in the long run. True music fans will support their favorite artists with an album purchase even after they download the leak, and those who have no intention of paying for music most likely never will.
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