The Man Who Broke the Music Business
Over at the The New Yorker, Stephen Witt tells the story of the The Man Who Broke the Music Business, Bennie Lydell Glover. It was published late last month and I finally got around to reading it. It’s fascinating.
On how Glover smuggled CDs of out the factory he worked at in Kings Mountain, North Carolina:
At the end of each shift, employees put the overstock disks into scrap bins. These scrap bins were later taken to a plastics grinder, where the disks were destroyed. Over the years, Glover had dumped hundreds of perfectly good disks into the bins, and he knew that the grinder had no memory and generated no records. If there were twenty-four disks and only twenty-three made it into the grinder’s feed slot, no one in accounting would know.
So, on the way from the conveyor belt to the grinder, an employee could take off his surgical glove while holding a disk. He could wrap the glove around the disk and tie it off. He could then hide the disk, leaving everything else to be destroyed. At the end of his shift, he could return and grab the disk.
That still left the security guards. But here, too, there were options. One involved belt buckles. They were the signature fashion accessories of small-town North Carolina. Many people at the plant wore them—big oval medallions with the Stars and Bars on them. Gilt-leaf plates embroidered with fake diamonds that spelled out the word “BOSS.” Western-themed cowboy buckles with longhorn skulls and gold trim. The buckles always set off the wand, but the guards wouldn’t ask anyone to take them off.
And on the “ethics” of the elite underground file sharing “crews”:
Scene culture drew a distinction between online file-sharing and for-profit bootlegging. The topsites were seen as a morally permissible system of trade. Using them for the physical bootlegging of media, by contrast, was viewed as a serious breach of ethical principles. Worse, it was known to attract the attention of the law. Kali put the word out that anyone suspected of selling material from the topsites would be kicked out of the group. Thus, for most participants membership in RNS was a money-losing proposition. They spent hundreds of dollars a year on compact disks, and thousands on servers and broadband, and got only thrills in return.
It’s a long, but great read.