I’ve found that when you keep an eye on when music albums leak out early, you begin to discover a lot more music. You become aware of bands you might never have been exposed to. Back in 2004 I discovered Mat Kearny. If you’ll remember his Columbia debut, Nothing Left To Lose, came out in 2006 and was then reissued in 2007. How did I find out about him so early? I came across his first album ‘Bullet’ [now out of print] on IRC and began following his career from there. I’m not kidding myself or trying to get you to buy into the fantasy that piracy is wonderful and some answer to a problem, it’s not. What I am trying to suggest though is that someone willing and capable of pirating music has probably discovered, and bought*, more music than someone who hasn’t pirated anything before.
Cutting to the chase, it’s about enthusiasm. Piracy as music discovery is an enthusiast sport. And by the way, you don’t actually have steal any music to use piracy as a discovery tool. Following sites that track album leaks is probably the best place to start. It fact, it’s one of the biggest things piracy has going for it. The people running sites linking to illegally hosted music are just music fans sharing and recommending music. They are enthusiastic about what they listen to. Sites like Alternative2punk.net list the genre, related artists, cover art and provides a link to the band’s Facebook page. All of which are important in deciding whether you’re going to take a chance on a band you don’t already know.
Another aspect that makes piracy a good discovery tool is its low barrier to entry. Free is compelling compared to spending $10 for every album you want to listen to. It’s the idea that piracy could work sort of like radio used to, the more people that actually hear the music, the more sales it will produce. Bands have caught on and are leaking their own songs now.
Piracy as a music discovery tool has lost some of the luster it had even just a few years ago, losing out to more legal options, but keeping up with the newest releases to flow out on the torrent sites might be a good way for you to discover your new favorite band.
* Columbia University public forum, American Assembly, is reporting that people who illegally download music also purchase ~30% more music than someone who doesn’t.