Last year, we launched our way-too-sporadic AnonIMous Interview Series, in which we anonymously grill seasoned music-biz veterans. We’d like to do this more often, mostly because we love the picture of the cats whispering secrets–possibly mouse-related secrets–to one another; if you have some compelling dirt to share, drop us a line at email@example.com. Anyway, this time, we’re flipping the anonIMity to the fans, and interviewing a big-time file-sharer. After the click-through, a Q&A that will make music-industry executives cry themselves to sleep on their pillows full of money.
VivSavage1984 how long have you been bittorrenting?
Da_BitTerrorist for about three years. it was one of those things that once you stumbled across it, it seemed like all of a sudden it was everywhere
VivSavage1984 how often did you do it?
Da_BitTerrorist in the beginning, i think it was still sort of a niche method of file transferring, so it wasn’t that often. I stuck more to things like the usenet for downloading initially.
Da_BitTerrorist there weren’t any centralized places where you could be fairly certain you’d find what you were looking for
VivSavage1984 would you download entire albums? or just songs?
Da_BitTerrorist well, bit torrent makes downloading an album just as easy as downloading a song, and makes downloading an artists entire catalogue as easy as downloading an album. it’s all just one click. so grabbing an album always seemed like the way to go for me.
VivSavage1984 would you ever do those big catalog files?
Da_BitTerrorist Sure, they’re pretty appealing. The fact that you can come home late at night, click a few buttons and wake up with the Beatles entire catalogue on your hard drive was a pretty tough deal to pass up.
VivSavage1984 so if you had to estimate, how many albums have you torrented in the past three years?
Da_BitTerrorist fifteen hundred is probably a decent estimate
VivSavage1984 you just made some interscope executive stab himself in the face!
Da_BitTerrorist I hope that doesn’t happen. nothing personal
VivSavage1984 how many albums would you estimate that you purchased over that same time period?
Da_BitTerrorist that number would have to be a lot lower. 50?
VivSavage1984 so did you ever feel any guilt about filesharing?
Da_BitTerrorist well, looking at those numbers is sort of a weighty feeling…
Da_BitTerrorist but not really. the files were just sort of there, you wanted to hear them
Da_BitTerrorist i never really felt like i was missing out on anything by not getting the CD
VivSavage1984 did you ever worry about getting busted?
VivSavage1984 i know the riaa always threatens bittorrenters
Da_BitTerrorist not really. you of course read things about people getting in trouble, but in the beginning it was always on networks like kazaa and limewire, and those weren’t really something i was using
Da_BitTerrorist and i never really downloaded much music from public trackers like torrentspy or pirate bay
VivSavage1984 what were you using?
Da_BitTerrorist mostly the site Oink, which is a private tracker
Da_BitTerrorist I think that the amount of people the RIAA is contacting are not using bit torrent, i think it’s still mostly a school network or kazaa type service kind of thing
VivSavage1984 gotcha. so for our readers who dont know, can you describe oink a bit, and explain how you got into it?
Da_BitTerrorist well, it’s a private site, accessible only by invite, with an extensive catalogue of torrents. I had a friend mention it to me once, he had just heard about it on a band message board or something. I checked it out, they had a chat room on the home page where some people were nice enough to hand out invites.
Da_BitTerrorist they’ve got music, software, ebooks, audio books mostly anything you could want besides games and videos
VivSavage1984 they also have magazines now, which is weird!
Da_BitTerrorist wow, that is interesting
VivSavage1984 i have no idea why anyone would want to download harper’s, but whatever
VivSavage1984 lots of comic books, too
VivSavage1984 but in terms of music
VivSavage1984 they seem to have everything, right?
Da_BitTerrorist the internet will shock and amaze you with what people want to be able to download
Da_BitTerrorist yeah, music is the primary focus, and the selection is tremendous. to the point where it’s surprising if something you want to download isn’t there.
VivSavage1984 and they get lots of leaks
Da_BitTerrorist yeah, they have plenty of older albums, but its also a place where newer things surface very early, probably before most other places on the internet. they have a system where you are required to share as much as you download, so if you’re the first person to upload the new Spoon, you’ll have a lot of people download it from you and you’ll improve your ratio
Da_BitTerrorist i don’t know who the people are or where they are getting the leaks from, but it tends to happen anywhere from a week to several months before the release date
VivSavage1984 yeah. when we got kicked off last week for writing about them, some people were like, “what’s the big deal?” and i don’t think they realized that this place delivers everything, and usually under a few minutes
Da_BitTerrorist or that they have the amazing feature of “requesting” an album, so that when a new album shows up that you had marked as wanting to hear, you get a big new message announcement with a link to download it right away
Da_BitTerrorist and yeah, downloading popular albums is usually a wait of 2 to 5 minutes from click to listening
VivSavage1984 but the flipside is that they have very strict rules
VivSavage1984 what are some of the regulations for not getting kicked off the site?
Da_BitTerrorist Well, you have to maintain a ratio of your uploads to downloads. That doesn’t mean that you have to put new albums on the site, just that once you download something, you leave it seeding so others can download it from you.
Da_BitTerrorist it’s not a very high ratio, somewhere around .5 and not too difficult to maintain
Da_BitTerrorist there are also strict rules about audio quality. there’s a minimum bit rate for mp3s, you can’t have any blips or pops on your mp3s
VivSavage1984 but you also have to have cute avatars, right?
Da_BitTerrorist yeah, and then there’s that. a really bizarre rule, that one
Da_BitTerrorist there’s a bunch of people leaving thanks for uploading the new modest mouse cd, and all of their avatars are kittens and ducklings or piglets
Da_BitTerrorist kind of cult like
Da_BitTerrorist i’ve never really been clear on the purpose of that
VivSavage1984 do you know anyone who’s been kicked off? if so, why?
Da_BitTerrorist yeah, i know people who have been unable to resist the temptation of downloading too much all at once. it’s sort of like an all you can eat buffet, but rather than getting sick if you eat too much too quickly, you just get kicked off
VivSavage1984 yeah, i can see that happening
VivSavage1984 they were very weird when we got kicked off
Da_BitTerrorist what happened to you?
VivSavage1984 well, i guess they traced it back to our email accounts
VivSavage1984 but i think they also knew our IP, since they also prevented an invite we had sent from being used
Da_BitTerrorist invites are doled out based on how much you’ve uploaded
Da_BitTerrorist and how long you’ve beena member
Da_BitTerrorist you can donate to get some invites as well
VivSavage1984 have you ever heard of anyone else being banned for writing about it, or discussing it online?
Da_BitTerrorist no, i never had, until i read a few passing mentions at your site. i thought it was really interesting. there wasn’t even a wikipedia page about it. i thought that for a site with over 150,000 members, nobody had really taken notice of it
VivSavage1984 i think thats the way they like it. any idea who “they” might be? they’re based in the UK, right?
Da_BitTerrorist i think they are based in Amsterdam. the web address ends in .uk
Da_BitTerrorist but no, i don’t know who the people are, why they do this, how much if any money they make
VivSavage1984 so no writing about it, no gorging. any other kick-offable offenses?
Da_BitTerrorist well when you upload torrents, it can’t be a poor quality file. it can’t be a transcode. it can’t be something they’ve asked you not to upload.
Da_BitTerrorist the quality requirements are pretty strict, and i guess that benefits everyone using it
Da_BitTerrorist again, not that tough to get something right.
VivSavage1984 i love how every five hours someone uploads “chinese democracy”
VivSavage1984 and everyone bitches
VivSavage1984 while secretly hoping this is finally the real thing
Da_BitTerrorist yeah, there are a list of albums which you are not allowed to upload, peopel somehow still manage to think they’ve got the real thing
Da_BitTerrorist on the whole though, it’s a pretty easy place to become and stay a member of. tracking down an invite is pretty much the toughest part, you just have to ask around
VivSavage1984 great. one last question:
VivSavage1984 why no guilt or regreats about the downloading? it’s not a judgment on my part–it’s just that I know the RIAA has spent the last few years drilling the notion that downloading equals theft
Da_BitTerrorist I don’t really know. Asking why you don’t feel guilty about something isn’t really a question you know how to answer.
Da_BitTerrorist why would you feel guilty if you hit someone with your car, but not if you jaywalked
Da_BitTerrorist it’s hard to put into words, but it’s a really disconnected sensation
Da_BitTerrorist like if you think about it long enough, you probably will, just like other more important problems that are easy to ignore
VivSavage1984 well if a place like Oink charged a flat rate, would you pay it?
Da_BitTerrorist i think that i definitely would. they give you exactly what you want. an unparallelled selection, no restrictions, variable qualities to choose from, convenient alerts about new stuff, recommendations. It’s certainly worth a fee each month. The problem is keeping that fee realistic. On oink you could download 50 albums a month pretty easily. Itunes would charge 500 dollars for that. paying ten, twenty, twenty five bucks seems like a fee that plenty of people could manage, but if you start to go higher, you’d start to see a significant drop off. I dont know how it could be implemented really
Da_BitTerrorist but when you look at their stats, you’d see that an album like Sam’s Town has been downloaded close to 10,000 times (check that for me, i think that’s true) [Ed. Note: It's true--actually, one file of Sam's Town has been completed nearly 13,000 times.]
VivSavage1984 those poor people!
VivSavage1984 sorry. i hate sam’s town
Da_BitTerrorist yeah, probably a bad example
Da_BitTerrorist but that’s more copies than have been sold in tower records
VivSavage1984 especially in the last four months!
VivSavage1984 well, thanks again, BitTerrorist!
Earlier: AnonIMous Interview Series archives