Fake Iron Maiden Story Raises Questions About MusicMetric and Illustrates Decline in Quality of Music Business Journalism.

By now you’ve heard that Iron Maiden used  torrenting data apparently obtained from a UK company called MusicMetric to find and embrace it’s “worst pirates” and go and play for them!  This story appears to have originated on November 29 with Alexandra Topping in the Guardian in a post that focused more on the benefits to the British economy of “small businesses” like Iron Maiden–ahem.

Ms. Topping was smart enough to avoid the causal trap that MusicMetric fell into.  But the post by ex-Slashdot blogger Andy Patrizio, a freelancer for Citeworld, went straight for that bait, and that post that was picked up by CNET and The Verge almost immediately.  All loudly proclaimed that Iron Maiden embraced piracy and got rich–apparently without ever asking the band what they thought.  Until Citeworld retracted the story, we can’t find any post that repeated the Patrizio story that also had quotes from the band.




This story was then widely re-reported and re-blogged in the music press.  In particular the two flagship music business publications Billboard and Rolling Stone ran with the story.

What is interesting about the Alexandra Topping story in the Guardian is in these opening paragraphs (links in the original):

Iron Maiden have never been exactly fashionable: too mainstream for punk, too scruffy for New Wave, too hairy and loud for pop. But it seems the classic British metal act is very good at turning metal into gold.

In a report published on Friday by the London Stock Exchange, the group – formed in Leyton, east London in the 1970s – has been cited as one of the UK’s fastest growing music firms, helping to pull the UK from economic heart failure into recovery.

Iron Maiden LLP, the group’s holding company, is one of six music firms at the vanguard of the new music business, according to the report entitled 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain.

The Guardian story that Topping linked to was a generic news summary of stories about the London Stock Exchange.  But that summary digest had a link to a post–a post with no by-line, just “Guardian Music”–that included this quote from MusicMetric’s CEO, the quote that launched a 1,000 retractions:

Iron Maiden’s BitTorrent data suggests Brazil is a huge driver of fans – and given Brazil is one of the biggest file sharing nations on the planet, this is a strong indicator of popularity,” said Greg Mead, CEO and co-founder of Musicmetric.

“With their constant touring, [the] report suggests Maiden have been rather successful in turning free file-sharing into fee-paying fans. This is clear proof that taking a global approach to live touring can pay off, and that having the data to track where your fan bases lie will become ever more vital.”

Still–no one seems to have asked the band what they think about this classic post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy of mistaken causation that is so fashionable.

But sure enough, the penny eventually dropped.  According to Tech Crunch the entire story appears to be fabricated.

In fact–if anything, particularly given the band’s “constant touring” (since 1970s) as quoted by MusicMetric’s CEO, the opposite is the real story: How Pirates Turned Iron Maiden Fans into Advertising Revenue–for Pirates and Ad Exchanges.

Sorry, guys, the BS filter is full.

We suspected this story was bunk right from the start if for no other reason than because every band already has access to very reliable data that shows locations of your assumed fans. You don’t need bittorrent data.  (Unless you’re part of the charm offensive for Bit Torrent, Inc.’s next round of financing.)  And you don’t even have to be tech savvy to get the most important pieces. Facebook anyone?

But suppose you are tech savvy and need more detail? You still don’t need torrent data. Try Google or Quantcast analytics for your website.

Somewhere in the middle?  Use http://www.nextbigsound.com, to track all kinds of social metrics in a precise geographic manner on a single aggregated screen!  Basic accounts are free!


(And actually-at least for the last 7 days-the embedded claim that Brazil, Argentina and Chile are hot markets for Iron Maiden is contradicted by the fact that tiny Luxembourg had more Iron Maiden oriented twitter activity than any of these markets. Hurry Iron Maiden! Go play Luxembourg!) 

But you don’t even need the internet to figure this out.  Analog  PRO (BMI/ASCAP) statements or even record company royalty statements provide accurate if slightly stale data on where your fans are!    Eyeballing my catalogue, bittorrent data mirrors this stuff exactly.  My most popular bitTorrent territories are the same territories I get a high volume of airplay and streams. (In my very extensive experience with my own catalog, BitTorrent activity actually follows not leads radio play and other publicity.)

So Iron Maiden collaborating on a major touring project with MusicMetric to do what I teach my first year Music Business students to do in the 1st week of class? Seemed highly suspect to me.

Hence this retraction from Citeworld:

The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Iron Maiden used MusicMetric’s analysis to plan its South American tours. MusicMetric did not work directly with Iron Maiden. The analysis described in this article was carried out without the band’s participation or knowledge, and we have no confirmation that the band ever saw or used it. [Because why would the band ever have done so?] CITEworld deeply regrets this error, and we apologize to our readers [but didn’t change the patently false headline that still reads “How Iron Maiden turned piracy into paying customers”].

Look we’ve gotten things wrong here at the Trichordist a few times. It happens.  But we’ve never f*cked up this bad.  Did anyone ever actually bother to call Iron Maiden’s management?  Agency? Press Officer? Did anyone question why Iron Maiden didn’t go to Southeast Asia or China at the same time? For they have an even greater volume of piratical fans in those territories.

Did anyone question how many times a band that’s been around since the 1970s has toured these same countries in the past and might have a watchamacallit–a fan base?

This is starting to seem  like the Goldblox VS Beatie Boys lawsuit where many news outlets erroneosly reported that  Beastie Boys were suing Goldieblox when in actuality it was the other way around!

The main question music business journalists should now be asking:

“Did MusicMetric have any role in pumping up this purportedly fabricated story?”

I’m not saying they intentionally did this to generate notoriety for themselves or funding for  Bit Torrent, Inc. but like Goldieblox the misreported story certainly provided a lot of free publicity for their company.  And in the world of Journalism 2.0 where “news” outlets print first and fact check later, headline consumers will likely walk around with a head full of garbage in, and we know then there’s going to be garbage out.  It’s just that this particular strain of garbage–piracy is good for you, yummy–bears a striking resemblance to the talking points generated by the Computer & Communications Industry Association and of course Bit Torrent itself.

But there is also a question that the music industry and artists should be asking themselves:

Why should the artists send dollars to MusicMetric, a company that seem to provide propaganda for it’s enemies?  If you look at the many of the company’s statements they seem to tacitly endorse piracy.   As a result I certainly wouldn’t hire this company to work any of my product.

It’s too bad.  MusicMetric generally provides a good product.  They may come out of this looking like they are just another purveyor of digital snake oil aka the Bit Torrrent charm offensive,  more interested in hyping their own product than actually helping their customers.

Makes you wonder where the funding is coming from.

7 thoughts on “Fake Iron Maiden Story Raises Questions About MusicMetric and Illustrates Decline in Quality of Music Business Journalism.

  1. Pingback: Why are their pants are on fire? | Costa Botes

  2. Holy crap – thank you for this David, I didn’t even think to check the validity because I ‘trusted’ the apparent source. Will NOT be doing that again. Also, thank you for all the time you put into your fact based reporting – I’m always learning something new when I read your blog. Most of the time it’s overwhelming, but if I take it in a little at a time, understanding usually drops. Eventually🙂

  3. So that clears it up, because this story baffled me from the start. It is pretty well known that Bruce Dickinson has been asking stadiums full of Brazilians to scream for him from the early eighties on. They don’t need BitTorrent data to be aware of their popularity in that region.

  4. Well… as an Iron Maiden fan there was a lot about this story that struck me as off. For a start Maiden have always been very vocal about how great their South American fans are (just have a dekko at what they have to say on Flight 666 – which was done 5 years ago, more or less). The only way you could believe that they suddenly discovered a fanbase in Brazil just now by working with MusicMetric is if you have no idea about what the band has been up to for most of their career (and – frankly – just a cursory look at the Tour section of their website, or Wikipedia even, shows they’d been hitting South America – including Brazil – for decades).

    That said, I could just about believe the notion that they were working with MusicMetric because of the quality or depth of data MM provide (I haven’t used the service, so I’m in no position to opine, especially since I’ve never even seen the position Maiden is in data-wise, even from a distance – few of us have). I also admit to a bit of a dread feeling that they might endorse piracy – as other artists who really should know better have done at various points in the past. Maiden has built a major touring/merchandising machine over the years and it is just possible that they might consider piracy of their recordings as fuel for it (or at least not feel the sting so much). I am therefore relieved to see that the “Maiden embraces piracy” bit appears to be pulled straight out of someone’s… wishful thinking.

    It does get me wondering, however, what do they teach journalists these days. As a blogger, I sometimes have quoted stories without further verification, but we’d think that if you’re working for a proper news outlet, the first thing you do is contact someone for comment – that’s what Press Officers are for. I can understand how some outlets who have – for whatever reason – pushed a “piracy is ok” agenda over the years might be reluctant to do so, ‘coz they might not like the answer, but Billboard? The funny thing is that the retraction seems to have come from MusicMetric itself, which suggests that nobody actually thought to ask Maiden. I suppose it just goes to show that the best way to run “artists support piracy” stories is to keep the artists’ opinions out of them.

  5. Like others, I trusted the source I was hearing this from but doubted the story. It seemed stupid. I avoided it and never covered it for many of the reasons you outlined in this article. Artists have tons of data already and getting data on its non-paying fans hardly seems like a great way to predict where people will plunk down cash on a concert.

    I’m glad I stayed away from this one now… Thank you very much for this follow up!

    • Dear David – In response to your question about whether Musicmetric had any role in pumping up this story – the answer is No.

      Please see below for formal response we issued earlier this week:

      Andrew Teacher, Musicmetric’s head of PR, said:

      “We never stated or implied that Iron Maiden had used our analytics to plan its tours. The Guardian correctly published Musicmetric data showing the band’s Bit Torrent and social engagement after the band was named one of the UK’s fastest growing companies a London Stock Exchange report. They were far older than many newer names in the report and we wanted to see why Maiden were in there. The data provided an interesting insight, showing just how many fans they’d added through intense touring across emerging markets and highlighting via Bit Torrent data precisely where they were popular.

      “This is precisely how Musicmetric’s analytics are used by artist managers and labels: to see where their artists are popular and what drives that popularity.

      “However, the CiteWorld story is sadly not substantiated. It is a follow up of a Guardian piece and it misrepresents our position by stating that the success was down to use of analytics, which we simply never said nor implied.

      “Musicmetric never said Iron Maiden had used its data to plan a tour – we simply said where the band was popular and stated that Bit Torrent data generally, could be useful to see precisely where an act is popular.”

      — Musicmetric

  6. Pingback: Zu schön, um wahr zu sein: Die Iron Maiden BitTorrent Story | Testspiel.de

Comments are closed.