U2's latest album, No Line on the Horizon, has joined the thousands of releases each year that find their way onto file-sharing sites before they make it to the shops--this despite an unprecedented secrecy campaign coordinated by the band's manager Paul McGuinness.
McGuinness, who has recently blamed Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and everyone else who shares the "hippy values" of Silicon Valley for growing rich off of piracy, had hoped that he could spare U2's new album from a "premature" release. No advance copies of the CD were sent out to reviewers. Instead, McGuinness organised a massive campaign of "private listening" parties where journalists and music reviewers were invited to hear the album, after having had any possible recording devices--including mobile phones--removed from their persons.
Techdirt speculates that this will have meant that fewer reviewers will have had the opportunity to hear the album prior to its release. It is also possible that the lack of trust in reviewers shown by U2's management will leave a negative impression in their minds. So, fewer reviews will be available to the public prior to the album's official release, and those reviews that do appear may not be as "positive" as they otherwise would have been: even if the reviewers are not consciously letting themselves be affected by the way they have been treated, it is probably impossible for them not to be affected in some way negatively.
And, as usual, all the precautions have come to nought.
According to Torrentfreak, the album was downloaded more than 100,000 times in the first ten hours of the leak.
The Brisbane Times reports that, for those with a little patience and a disdain for infringing other people's copyrights, the album will be released in a number of formats--two CD versions, a 180-gram vinyl version, and a deluxe box set complete with 64-page magazine and access to a special film. It is certainly true that millions of fans will buy one or more of these releases, but, as always, the "damage" done to an album launch by its premature release on file-sharing networks is impossible to gauge with any accuracy.
It is uncertain what effect the leak will have on the ongoing Pirate Bay trial in Sweden, but the events surrounding it--including the tight but ultimately flawed security operation mounted in the weeks and months up to now--could well be raised by the prosecution to highlight the scale and intransigent nature of the problem of copyright infringement on the Internet.
No Line on the Horizon will be legitimately released for public purchase in Ireland on 27 February and a few days later in the rest of the world.