Dell Glover changed music, yet he’s neither an artist nor a label executive. In fact, you probably haven't even heard of him.
The latest issue of The New Yorker profiles Glover and his roll in the pirating boom that crippled the music industry. The piece is a adapted from an excerpt of author Steven Witt's book How the Music Got Free, out next month.
Glover got into music piracy as an employee at a North Carolina Polygram CD-manufacturing plant that he would transform into a pipeline to funnel artists' music directly to the world's biggest illegal distributors. “The factory sat on a hundred acres of woodland and had more than three hundred thousand square feet of floor space,” the piece reads. “It ran shifts around the clock, every day of the year. New albums were released in record stores on Tuesdays, but they needed to be pressed, packaged, and shrink-wrapped weeks in advance. On a busy day, the plant produced a quarter of a million CDs. Its lineage was distinguished: PolyGram was a division of the Dutch consumer-electronics giant Philips, the co-inventor of the CD.”
Over a roughly seven-year period, Glover leaked albums like Lil Wayne’s 500 Degreez, Jay Z’s The Blueprint, 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying and Eminem’s The Eminem Show. It wasn’t just rap either, he also leaked Mariah Carey’s Emancipation of Mimi and releases from Ashanti, Blink-182, Bjork, Queens of the Stone Age and several other artists.
In the early ‘00s, Glover was one of the top leakers in the world, pocketing thousands in profits by bootlegging music, videos games and DVDs. He had even started an early version streaming service similar to what Netlfix is today but for pirated material.
Two of his biggest leaks were 50’s Curtis and Kanye West’s Graduation albums, both of which dropped on Sept. 11, 2007, and were pitted against each other in a massively successful marketing scheme. Glover had his hands on the CDs by August of that year, so he leaked each album to two separate bootlegging companies.
His presumed winning streak came to a halt soon after. “On Wednesday, September 12th, Glover went to work at 7 p.m. He had a double shift lined up, lasting through the night," the story states. “As he was preparing to leave, a co-worker pulled him aside. ‘There’s someone out there hanging around your truck,’ he said. In the dawn light, Glover saw three men in the parking lot. As he approached his truck, he pulled the key fob out of his pocket. The men stared at him but didn’t move. Then he pressed the remote, the truck chirped, and the men drew their guns and told him to put his hands in the air.”
After getting raided by the FBI, Glover was indicted on a single count of conspiracy to commit music infringement. In exchange for sentencing leniency, he agreed to testify against a fellow bootlegger, who was later acquitted during a separate court case.
Glover ended up serving three months in prison.
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(Photo: Michael Wildsmith / Getty Images)