Demos, leaks and lost tracks

Music is one of the most important aspects of culture. So much so, even music that was never supposed to see the light of day can make an impact


Mackenzie Sroka

All musicians create demos, but most of those demos aren’t meant for fans to enjoy. Streaming, though, has made it easier for for fans to find demos — and sites like Soundcloud have made it easier for leakers to share demos widely.

Gabe Santos, Arts and Entertainment Editor

In the digital age it’s easy for music that artists never intended to release to be heard by general audiences. Every so often someone will get a hold of demos or unfinished tracks in mass quantities and leak them on Soundcloud, Twitter, or other social media sites. Unreleased and leaked music has this aura of being secret, or something that isn’t supposed to be heard. Because of this, the hidden treasures of music are often alluring, and can even take on lives of their own. 

Leaking music is a relatively new practice, with album leaks beginning to take prominence in the 2000’s with the rise of streaming. Leaking albums is illegal, and can hurt an artist’s sales. No artist knows this better than Lil Wayne, who had both “The Carter III” and “Rebirth” leaked before release. A more recent example, Harry Styles album “Harry’s House” was leaked about a month in advance of its planned release. 

Even more harmful is when demos can even be preferred over the final version of a track. Infamously, when fans explained that a Soundcloud version of the track “Love” by Kid Cudi was better than the version officially released, he went on a Twitter rant, and removed the Soundcloud track.

The allure that comes with unreleased songs can even be taken advantage of, as some artists have become savvy to the attention it can bring. Particularly in rap and R&B, it’s not uncommon for songs to have features that don’t make the final cut, and a famous example of this is “The Weekend” by SZA. Frank Ocean teased a version of the track that had him doing vocals, but it was never released, and fans raved. 

Some albums don’t need to be heard to maintain an aura of interest. For whatever reason it may be, artists can sometimes lose albums, or announce them and never release them. For example, Green Days “Cigarettes and Valentines” was an album in the works before the master tape was stolen. This would inspire the group to start from scratch, and make “American Idiot”, debatably their biggest project.

However as far as unreleased albums are concerned, nobody is more prolific than Kanye West. Over the years he’s procured a habit for rumored or announced albums never coming out. “Wolves”, a teased Kanye and Drake collab album, “Yeezus 2”, and “Yandhi” are among many of the albums of this nature.

The mystery that comes with these musical treasures, lost to time, is one that interests audiences in a way unique to the internet age. The way it is beginning to be used by artists as a benefit is very interesting, and could signal a change in the culture as a whole.