It Was Free Cuz I Stole It

WEB EXCLUSIVE!: The Year In Unfair Shares

Snob Torrents: Concentrated swapper sites are gonna strangle themselves with stinginess, the same way networks like Hotline and KDX sank into obscurolescence. People who get into leeching music don't like to follow rules about ratios—there's no homework among thieves—so sites like these will probably fragment as users move to free sharity blogs, friendlier message boards and unstumpable fileshare networks.

Premix Leaks: Lupe Fiasco hates these—an unmixed version of Food & Liquor came months too early—but premix leaks are headed from notable to routine. TV On The Radio's Cookie Mountain also came out months too early, the Shins' Wincing The Night Away(due in January) has apparently leaked twice in different versions, and Bloc Party's A Weekend In The City (due in February) just hit the networks. The solution now belongs more to the PR people—lucky Lupe got an early review calling him the future of hip-hop, and a correctly leveraged premix can make a spike of welcome publicity when nothing was supposed to be happening at all.

Virtual Release: If Joe Bussard could plug an iBook into his Victrola, he'd be making these. This is the most ghostly stuff: sourced from unreleased sessions or radio broadcasts or repoed master tapes—all honorable bootleg chow, sure, but virtual releases go straight from the source to the fileshares, skipping any intermediate physical medium. For instance: WFMU recently popularized a Faust album that never made it past a few Virgin Records promo tapes until someone copied it up to MP3. Companion to this are homemade virtual compilations, issued direct from the collector's originals—a stack of uncomped funk 45s, say—to the fileshares with some kind of searchbait name… like MY HOT FUNK 45s. These are albums aimed at audiences so microscopic there's almost no profit in paying for physical form—as such, they're usually pretty great.

Give Up: Can't steal it if it didn't cost anything anyway. A California band called Wooden Shjips put out their EP for free this year; all you had to do was ask and there was a real record in your actual hands. And it was really good, too—blown-out Les Rallizes homage with vocals echoplexed to infinity. In fact, so good that I bought my own copy with my own actual money, just for old times' sake.

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