Album leaks are awesome.
There, I said it. Nothing beats walking around a week or two before your favorite artist's new album drops with all the tracks in your iPod, (like millions of people are doing right now with Jay-Z's Blueprint 3). It's like preseason football, you know its not the real thing but it is a taste of the goodness to come when you can go buy the album, flip through the artwork and hear it in studio quality.
As to be expected, not all artists are happy about their work being spread to masses for free but in an era when even a Donny Osmond album would leak online, they should just embrace it.
Of course, there is the downside of falsely-leaked material like unfinished or unmastered tracks, unreleased videos and other things that may be a false representation of the artist and tarnished public perception of an upcoming project.
Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West were both victims of false leaks of their material, which is why both artists are strongly against leaking anything, with Lupe going so far as to trace the chain of e-mails himself to see who in the loop let go of his latest single, "Shining Down."
To combat the feeling of being robbed that must go along with having an album distributed through thousands of different outlets online, the best thing artist's can do is control the leak.
West Coast rapper The Game is one notable star who's leaked his own material before when he admitted to leaking the clean version of his 2006 album, Doctor's Advocate, and debut album, The Documentary, in 2004 on the internet for massive consumption. His argument? "I already leaked my shit so niggas know what it is now. All they got to wait for is the dirty version." He continued, "You gotta do that. You gotta give people a sample. It's like selling crack in the 'hood, man. Anybody that ever sold drugs in the hood knows you gotta give a nigga a taste before they buy."
Minus flooding the hood with drugs part, The Game makes a great point. In an increasingly cost conscious culture, where people will give you the big fuck you of downloading your stuff if you try to jack up prices, why not treat your music like Costco and set up the same tray?
There is the concern that leaked albums adversely affect their album sales but like a good movie trailer, a good leak can make people who weren't really anticipating your work, at least remember the release date and in bad cases, listeners know to keep their hard earned cash in their pockets.
What it comes back to is the money. I don't think an artist minds if potentially thousands more people hear their music as long as it's followed by a check. Today, the saavy artist makes sure they have a say so in the matter. Whether it's releasing songs or albums via Twitter, like the late DJ AM and Travis Barker did earlier this year, or actually utilizing that Facebook group or MySpace page to reward those fans who have publicly claimed to like you with exclusive music or some insight into the process.
For some fans though, any pre-listening to any album, in any form, is blasphemous. I remember refusing to click, stream or listen to any of Lupe Fiasco's first album Food & Liqour and when the album came out, I went straight to Best Buy right after class and proceeded to play it endlessly for weeks and actually appreciated the album more, but that's a rare coincidence.
I'm just saying, if you're not on hip-hop's A or B-List and especially if you're local, just be happy someone wasted the time to double-click and wait for it. Who knows, if they like it they might go look for it on Tuesday.