10 times musicians leaked their own songs ahead of the release date
Hayley Williams made some serious waves on the internet last week with an unfounded promotional stunt. After days of dropping cryptic hints, the Paramore vocalist drove out to a fan's house to hand-deliver a single from her upcoming solo album—and request it be leaked.
Brazen, chaotic energy aside, this is hardly the first time an artist has cut an official release timeline short. Be it through an accidental upload or intentional strategy, tracks leak by the hands of their creators more often than you'd think. Of course, we’re always thankful for a sneak peek.
Here are 10 of our favorite times that artists leaked their own songs.
Radiohead – OK Computer demos
Back in 2019, anonymous hackers attempted to blackmail Radiohead for $150,000 under threat of leaked stolen demos. We can’t imagine that they expected the band to respond simply by leaking them all first. The dramatic unfolding resulted in 18 hours' worth of demos from the OK Computer era being made available via Bandcamp. Though free to stream, downloads were available to purchase for the benefit of Extinction Rebellion.
3OH!3 – “House Party”
When artists plan to leak a track, they usually do it secretly. Of course, no one in their right mind would expect 3OH!3 to conform to popular strategy. While promoting Streets Of Gold via MTV, the band revealed that a new song would be “accidentally” slipping out soon. “House Party” and its accompanying music video appeared on the internet a few days later.
Lady Gaga – “Aura”
Whereas 3OH!3 were unashamed about leaking music, Lady Gaga took a notably contrasting approach in 2013. The pop star reportedly disagreed with Interscope Records’ decision to release “Applause,” rather than “Aura,” as the lead single for ARTPOP. Though the situation is still murky, Gaga allegedly took matters into her own hands by making a fake account on a fan forum under the name Boris and shared “Aura” herself.
Alex Gaskarth – “Time-Bomb”
Alex Gaskarth was feeling pretty generous ahead of Dirty Work. As a result, the All Time Low vocalist took to Twitter in 2011 to drop “Time-Bomb.” The reason? He and the rest of the band felt that they needed to put out something new for their fans. It’s unclear whether Interscope Records sanctioned the unofficial drop, but Gaskarth didn’t appear to sweat it.
Fall Out Boy – MANIA demos
Fall Out Boy took a more intermediate approach in getting their MANIA demos out to fans. As a consolation for the album delay, they mailed out EPs under the moniker Frosty And The Nightmare Making Machine. The CD contained three scrapped demos as well as a note on the back of the case that directly encouraged their recipients to leak them.
Awsten Knight – “Turbulent”
It’s a wonder that bands manage to be secretive at all in today’s social media culture. That said, the ability to speak in real time to fans makes it all the much easier to generate hype. Waterparks’ Awsten Knight demonstrated this in 2019 when he leaked a bit of “Turbulent” via Instagram Live. While Knight didn’t confirm that the track would be on their then-upcoming album, FANDOM, he did insinuate that the full song would eventually be available.
Halsey – “wipe your tears”
Halsey celebrated Pride Month in 2020 by uploading the original version of “wipe your tears” to Twitter. Despite not having the permission of Capitol Records to do so, the singer was boldly unapologetic. She went on to explain that there are a total of three versions. We can only hope to hear the third and final form of this Manic cut eventually.
Rivers Cuomo – Weezer demos
This one’s a bit murky. Though Rivers Cuomo didn’t directly drop 500 previously unreleased Weezer demos, he (perhaps unknowingly) made them easily accessible. Last year, fans found the tracks in the source code of his website and downloaded them via Dropbox. As you can imagine, they circulated quickly after that. All’s well that ends well, though, and Cuomo made certain of that by later offering up 2,655 demos that were parceled out into compilations available for purchase.
Demi Lovato – “Still Have Me”
Usually we have to wait a considerable amount of time for an artist to drop a heart-wrenching song post-breakup. However, Demi Lovato decided to waste no time at all. Days after her split from Max Ehrich surfaced, she took to social media to tease a song inspired by the ordeal. The kicker? Not even her manager was expecting it. “Still Have Me” dropped 10 hours later.
Paramore – Paramore
Paramore have never exactly been stingy with their unofficial releases. Hence the availability of their fan-compiled album, The B Sides, on YouTube. Even so, their promotional strategy ahead of their 2013 self-titled album was surprising. The band took to their website over multiple nights to leak batches of songs just days before the album officially dropped.
What was your favorite instance of an artist leaking their own tracks? Sound off in the comments!