Sunday’s Chicago Tribune piece on leaks of unreleased albums canvassed indie-label employees about their thoughts on leaks, including a rep from Sub Pop:
“I don’t think we’re plagued with the same problems that major labels are as far as the dangers of leaking, nor do I necessarily agree with their view or tactics,” says Tony Kiewel, head of A&R at Sub Pop Records, a veteran label whose laid-back approach and grounded, non-commercial attitude helped usher in the hands-off, artist-friendly tactics now commonplace in the indie sector. The Seattle imprint sends discs to journalists months before release dates in hopes of generating buzz.
Kiewel is aware that some choose to sell their copies or digitally post them but doesn’t think costly initiatives that diminish playback options are the answer, particularly when his bands depend on word-of-mouth exposure.
“We’re sending the writer a CD in hopes that [they] will play it and listen to it in whatever capacity they’re most likely to enjoy it. So making it super-limited only seems to hurt their experience and probably hurt the artist’s ability to get a good review, which we’re not eager to see happen,” he explains. “I’m not really concerned about [music leaking] pinching sales. I don’t necessarily believe that’s what happens when music leaks early.”
Not mentioned in this article is the mini-uproar from a few months ago, when a low-bitrate version of Wincing The Night Away, the forthcoming album by the Shins, made its way around the Internet; promotional copies of that CD were watermarked, a first for Sub Pop. And when those MP3s made their way around blogs, Sub Pop turned to the UK copyright enforcers at Web Sheriff to have them taken down. Perhaps Kiewel mentioned this incident to Tribune reporter Bob Gendron, but he neglected to mention it–which seems curious to us, especially given that the tactics Sub Pop took with the Shins, one of the few bands on the label that are high-profile enough to snag a Saturday Night Live slot, directly contradict Kiewel’s “hands-off” spin. Has Sub Pop decided, after October’s tempest, to let leaks flow more freely?