September 30, 2023
Music History

The Man Who Broke the Music Business

I’m currently working on an Ongoing History show about the history of bootlegs which caused me to stumble upon this article about a guy who kickstarted the MP3 era of bootlegging by leaking stuff from CD pressing plants.  It appears in the New Yorker.

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.”

It’s definitely worth reading the whole thing.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37122 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “The Man Who Broke the Music Business

  • Absolutely amazing story. Brutal irony that the fall of the recording industry came about not from a sea change of taste or some moral ascendency but from a guy in the backwoods pirating to a guy living in his mother’s basement. In a way, though this story was about the epicentre of pirating, this was a side show in any event: it really didn’t matter who did the leaking. The leaking was caused as much by the advances in technology as it was by human failings This would have happened in any event and somebody else would have been responsible, and in fact this was alluded to in the story, a whole community of anonymous burners. This one guy was just so industrious at it, you have to wonder at how the story unfolded. Great read. Very good journalism.

  • Would make a great movie or binge TV series… Something like “Blow” was back in 2001.


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