Content Leaks: Call The Lawyers, Or Talk To Fans Honestly?

You may remember last year all the press attention that came about when a work print of the movie Wolverine leaked out a month or so before the movie was set to be released. At the time, 20th Century Fox went ballistic and all of the talk was about legal threats and getting the FBI involved (in fact, the FBI eventually did arrest someone accused of the leak). However, in our post about the leak, we wondered if a better response might have been to not freak out and call the lawyers, but address fans who were downloading the leak as fans and treat them with some respect. Totally off the top of my head, I mocked up what Fox could have said:

Hey Wolverine fans! We know that you’re all looking forward to the release of the movie next month. We’re excited too! By now you may have heard that an early totally unfinished version has been leaked online. It’s missing a whole bunch of stuff — including some amazing special effects — and honestly, this version isn’t a finished product at all. We think you’ll get a much better overall experience by waiting for the full finished product, but we certainly understand that some of you just can’t wait (trust us, we feel the same way!). If that’s the case, please, feel free to check it out, but please remember that this isn’t even close to the final version. If anything, think of this as a “behind-the-scenes” peek of just what a movie looks like before all the real “movie magic” gets put in there. If you do check it out, we hope you’ll join us May 1st to check out the finalized version as well on the big screen the way we intended for you to see this awesome movie. It’s just a month away!

But, of course, that’s not what happened at all. I still do wonder how people would have responded if 20th Century Fox had responded that way. While it’s not quite the same scale, we now do have some information from a band who did choose to do something somewhat similar when their album leaked. It’s obviously on a much smaller scale, but involves a similarly obsessive group of fans who were eagerly waiting for the content. In this case, it was the release of an album from a band called Man Overboard. The story is explained by the band’s manager, where they quickly and actively responded to the album leaking a month ahead of schedule by not freaking out, and moving to treat fans who wanted the album with respect. In this case, it involved putting the album up themselves as well, and proactively communicating with fans. And the response was that fans loved it, with some pointing out they were buying the album just to show support for a band that would act that way:

The response could not have been better. Many fans praised us for being “adults” about the situation and countless fans were thankful they got a record they had been waiting for a month early. Other said they would buy the record just to support a group behaving in this fashion. On messageboards and blog comments we could not have gotten a better response,with at least two dozen compliments on how cool it was for us to release the record to our fans early instead of inflicting the usual torture of waiting upon our fans.

We earned loyalty from our fans and made them into evangelists by doing them right, which coincidentally also did us right. A win-win situation that most labels turn into a lose-lose situation. We could not be more thankful to have a smart label and team that made us able to benefit from something that is usually thought of as a catastrophe.

Nice to see some people making this work. Somehow, I doubt we’ll see many of the “big” guys figure this out any time soon, unfortunately.

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