Holy moly!! Dig this DEEP New Yorker feature, "The Man Who Broke the Music Business", which traces the digital-file-sharing underground's ascension to its eventual collapse. Turns out, most of the leaked new releases were sourced from one guy, Lydell "Dell" Glover, a rank-and-file worker in a North Carolina pressing plant. As a strict record nerd, I've never been keen on downloading; I want the THING, a record, but GOD DAMN, the story of how this one guy contributed to the sinking of the record industry sure is something.
On August 10, 1996, CDA released to IRC the Scene’s first “officially” pirated MP3: “Until It Sleeps,” by Metallica. Within weeks, there were numerous rival crews and thousands of pirated songs.
At work, Glover manufactured CDs for mass consumption. At home, he had spent more than two thousand dollars on burners and other hardware to produce them individually. His livelihood depended on continued demand for the product. But Glover had to wonder: If the MP3 could reproduce Tupac at one-eleventh the bandwidth, and if Tupac could then be distributed, free, on the Internet, what the hell was the point of a compact disk?
I know there were crews of bootleggers and pirate record and tape manufacturers, pre-internet, obviously (even some legit labels in the '80s used some shady licensing practices), but the file-sharing crews of the Scene were woven together mostly on their word. But then they had to be, as these crews were individuals threaded together all over the world using the internet for file distribution. There was no heavy mafia-like presence driving this culture, or even money; it was basically teens and twentysomethings who were (mostly) into pirating for the love of music and the excitement. It seems a
little lot like their pirating was a highly competitive game—whichever group could get an album posted to the "topsites" first could claim, um, "FIRSTIES!"
Eventually, tho', the players began getting tired—a decade on, the music wasn't as good, and, well, most of the folks involved were tipping into their 30s, so playing their games had gone stale. Also, by the mid '00s, the Feds were onto their chat rooms and began routinely taking down those involved. Glover's time ran out on September 12, 2007, when the FBI raided his home.
At trial in 2010, the Department of Justice said, “RNS [Glover's crew] was the most pervasive and infamous Internet piracy group in history.” In their time, the RNS "leaked more than 20,000 albums." Glover, personally, had been the source for the lion's share of that 20k, but only served three months after pleading guilty one count of felony conspiracy to commit copyright infringement; the alleged ringleader of RNS, known to Glover only as "Kali," was found not guilty of all charges. Yeah, so Glover served only three months for a decade's worth of thieving! DAMN!