Even in a world dominated by streaming, an album leak is still regarded by most artists as nothing short of a tragedy. Indeed, their labels feel the same way. These days, labels both major and independent alike schedule release dates and marketing campaigns to best avoid leaks but they still do happen.
One man leaked thousands of albums, including landmark releases like The Eminem Show and Nelly’s Country Grammar.
But who was responsible for these leaks? One man who could tell you is Lydell Glover, As far as The New Yorker, the FBI, and the US government are concerned, Glover is the man who broke the music business.
As an employee at the PolyGram compact-disk manufacturing plant in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, Glover had access to albums weeks ahead of their planned release date.
An interest in computers meant Glover was one of the first people to buy a CD burner back when they cost almost $600 and it also meant that he was more than aware of the invention of an eighteen-year-old college dropout from Northeastern University named Shawn Fanning.
From 2001 on, Glover was the world’s leading leaker of pre-release music, though he claims that he never smuggled the CDs himself. Instead, he tapped a network of low-paid temporary employees who would sneak the disks past security, in exchange for cash or leaked movies.
Using the cash he made from bootleg sales, Glover began making extravagant purchases. He bought game consoles and presents for his friends and his family. He bought two new off-road quad bikes, a used Lincoln Navigator that he upgraded, and an expensive stereo.
Glover and and his business partner Kali ended their scene activity with one final score, leaking albums by 50 Cent and Kanye West who were in the midst of the biggest rap beef of the year, all centred on whose album would sell more on a single release date. Of course, Glover knew the two were on the same label and the whole thing was a marketing stunt.
On Wednesday, 12th September 2007, Glover went to work a double shift at the plant, which lasted through the night, finishing at 7am. As he prepared to leave, a co-worker pulled him aside. “There’s someone out there hanging around your truck,” he said.
As he walked out into the light of dawn, Glover saw three men in the parking lot. As he approached his truck and pressed the remote, the men drew their guns and told him to put his hands in the air. The men were from the Cleveland County sheriff’s office. They informed him that he was under arrest and the FBI was searching his home.
In the next few months, the FBI made numerous raids on the scene, picking up many of its key figures, including Kali, who was found not guilty on copyright infringement charges brought against him, despite a testimony from Glover, who served three months in prison.
In their sentencing guidelines, the attorneys for the Department of Justice wrote, “RNS was the most pervasive and infamous Internet piracy group in history.” That reputation was built by some 20,000 leaked albums and many of them could be traced back to Glover.
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