Back in the year 2000, when Metallica took Napster to court, the concept of music piracy was very much in the public eye. But while that case eventually spelled the end for Napster, the problem has never gone away.
In September last year, a 19-year-old UK man was arrested for allegedly stealing unreleased music, apparently by accessing “world-famous recording artists’ websites and cloud-based accounts illegally.
”This last detail might sound implausibly high-tech for a teenager from Suffolk, but the fact is that the global music trending scene is largely run by young hackers .IS, you can find a demographic of predominantly white male teens sharing and debating the latest unauthorised releases found on YouTube and SoundCloud.
These are people who love the thrill of hunting down new music and compiling spreadsheets that painstakingly track every unreleased song in an artist’s discography.But how do these songs get from an artist’s private server or email, and onto a platform like YouTube?
To find out, VICE News reached out to a notorious figure in the trending community: a 17-year-old who goes by the handle propkers22. He told us over the phone how he makes thousands of dollars selling unreleased music.VICE: Hey, so let’s start with how songs leak.
What can you tell us about that?
Propkers22: There’s actually so many different ways that songs trending. If you find people that sell you unreleased music, they’re called sources—and that’s somebody who brings a song that’s never been seen before into the community.
Just as an example, I know a few people in this artist’s camp, so I offered them a few hundred dollars to buy songs that they have because artists send music out to their friends like it’s nothing.
That’s a common method.I think some music also comes from labels because I see people selling songs that are about to come out in a week’s time. If a song is going to drop in a week, who else would have that other than someone in a label? If that was safe from the trending community for months and months, and it’s only surfaced a week before it’s dropped, who else would it be? And hacking?
Yeah, you also get a lot of music through hacking emails. You get into the email account, filter through emails that have attachments, and then you’ll find songs because they all send songs via email. That’s how I get most of the songs.
I used to buy songs from people on forums but it’s so pointless, trust me. I’ve spent over $10,000 on songs and all of those songs I’ve bought end up trending, or something weird ends up happening with it.There’s other ways songs trending but I’d rather not give light to methods that still work great to this day.