Here’s an infographic explaining how a record gets leaked from a Spin article titled Days of the Leak:
According to the infographic, there are a number of opportunities for an album to make it into the public’s hands between its completion and release:
- At the studio: 4 months before release — As soon as a record is finished, anyone from the producer to the engineer to the band members can spoil the fun.
- At the label: 3 1/2 months before release — Labels send albums to companies like Sonic Arts to add a digital encryption code that can identify evildoers…but not necessarily stop them.
- By the press: 3 months before release — Considered to be the most common source of album leakage, watermarks or not. Oops!
- At the plant: 1 month before release — While in the process of being manufactured, a CD is ostensibly secured under lock and key, but sometimes copies fall off the back of trucks.
- At the warehouse: 2 weeks before release — Once CDs await shipping to retailers, it’s virtually guaranteed that a copy will find its way online.
- At retail: And of course, once an album is for sale online and in stores, all bets are off.