One Saturday in 1994, Bennie Lydell Glover, a temporary employee at the PolyGram compact-disk manufacturing plant in Kings Mountain, North Carolina, went to a party at the house of a co-worker. He was angling for a permanent position, and the party was a chance to network with his managers. Late in the evening, the host put on music to get people dancing. Glover, a fixture at clubs in Charlotte, an hour away, had never heard any of the songs before, even though many of them were by artists whose work he enjoyed.
Later, Glover realized that the host had been d.j.’ing with music that had been smuggled out of the plant. He was surprised. Plant policy required all permanent employees to sign a “No Theft Tolerated” agreement. He knew that the plant managers were concerned about leaking, and he’d heard of employees being arrested for embezzling inventory. But at the party, even in front of the supervisors, it seemed clear that the disks had been getting out. In time, Glover became aware of a far-reaching underground trade in pre-release disks. “We’d run them in the plant in the week, and they’d have them in the flea markets on the weekend,” he said. “It was a real leaky plant.”
And that's how Stephen Witt's The New Yorker profile of Glover begins. Then it goes on to describe how Glover became the source of much of the music downloaded by the masses via Napster in the nineties. The article was the precursor to Witt's book How Music Got Free: The End of an Industry, the Turn of the Century, and the Patient Zero of Piracy.
Discovered via the great Kottke.com:
No one is alive that can remember life before your day could be interrupted by a newsflash. The first event in this country to be experienced that way was when the transcontinental railroad was completed in the Utah desert in 1869. The entire nation was waiting for the moment a golden spike (wired to the telegraph) struck a silver hammer (also wired up to the telegraph), creating the first massive breaking news story.
Discovered yet another great podcast recently. The Allusionist, etymological adventures with Helen Zaltzman in a fortnightly podcast.
Remember when 'viral' used to only mean something bad, IE something that would make you ill or destroy your computer?
In this episode Helen explores the evolution of the word viral.