Leaks are nothing new, but a lot of big name artists have had albums surface online well ahead of their release dates this year. That holds true for the three biggest releases of the month: Björk, Sleater-Kinney, and Panda Bear — one of them wasn’t even supposed to come out for another two months, and another leaked over three months early. Labels are still figuring out the best way to combat leaks. Some have thrown the album up on digital platforms right after it hits torrent sites, others have chosen to ignore it. Across the board, most labels seem to be tightening the window between the album announcement and the release date. Most of the major albums that have been announced so far this year will be out by the end of March. That seemed to have been the plan for Björk’s label One Little Indian — Vulnicura was announced on January 13th with an original release date of March, but when the album surfaced online only five days after the announcement, the label had to act fast. Billboard talked to One Little Indian about the rush to handle the leak, which ended up being more contentious than you may think.
“Björk ideally wanted to get the whole record out, and to cut a very long story short, she made a mostly artistic decision that she wanted to get it all out. She felt very passionately about it,” One Little Indian founder Derek Birkett told Billboard. However, the label ran into some problems with their international licensees when they approached them with their release plan: many were worried that a digital release would have a bad effect on physical sales — Rough Trade Germany apparently refused to work with Björk going forward. “We had to switch some of our partners for other partners. It had a massive, massive impact on us.”
Initially, One Little Indian had struck a deal with Amazon to make the album available as a free download to anyone who pre-ordered the physical edition, but they pulled out after the album made its way to iTunes. (Amazon is now selling the digital edition of the album.) “Basically what happened is I panicked and gave it to iTunes because I told them, ‘All these deals are going down and we’re losing a lot of money,'” Birkett told Billboard. “I told them to put it on the cover and we’d give them the exclusive. Then I realized the political implications of giving iTunes the exclusive.”
Vulnicura is still set for a physical release in March.