Earache and Burzum album leak

It’s not often that a big label head posts a link to illegally download a release from another label. But that’s exactly what Digby Pearson of Earache did with Burzum’s new album, which comes out in March, on Friday on Twitter. (Interestingly, Earache almost signed Burzum back in the day. See here for the story of the meeting between them at a pizza joint with Varg Vikernes dressed in armor.)

Pearson has gone through an interesting change of heart regarding downloading. He once called mediafire “media-nazi-fire,” and Earache’s download promo site for journalists has login credentials along the lines of “file sharing is evil.” But late last year Earache released Gama Bomb’s new record as a free download. Recently, Pearson used mediafire to illegally download Wormrot’s album before he acquired the rights to it and signed the band. Now he’s posted a mediafire link to a release that’s not his, i.e., file sharing.

Now, illegal downloading is the world’s worst kept secret. Everybody but my mum does it. But it’s unprecedented for a big label head to blow up someone else’s spot this publicly. I doubt he’d like it if, say, Metal Blade’s Brian Slagel posted a download link to the upcoming Annihilator album on Earache. Maybe Pearson is gambling that Byelobog, which I’m guessing is Vikernes’ own label, doesn’t have the resources to take him on. Or maybe he just wasn’t thinking.

In reality, the practical effect of this probably isn’t much. Burzum’s album would have leaked all over the Internet without Pearson’s help. And I’m wondering how much damage leaks actually do these days. Those who take advantage of them probably wouldn’t buy albums anyway. Defenders of physical formats are going to buy them anyway. Pre-release leaks might hurt MP3 album sales — but all it takes is for one post-release leak to sink that boat, and would/wouldn’t buy anyway arguments would still hold true. Probably the biggest takeaway from this is the age-old maxim to watch what one says.

— Cosmo Lee

(Thanks to Robert N for the tip here.)