Alan Carton

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Sometimes, a story creeps up and grabs you. This is the story of Alan Carton.

Alan was an avid music fan, diagnosed with soft tissue cancer at the age of 18. The prognosis was not good. The cancer was in his lungs.

In 2007, at the age of 20, Alan started a blog, called Did It Leak. The blog listed some of the hottest album titles being leaked on the web. A leaked album is a digital file of the album, available for downloading before the official release date. Leaked files are downloaded without payment to the artist, label, publisher or record stores. Diditleak didn't actually link to music files. The site simply listed the leaked titles and their official release dates. The site earned a reputation for being one of the most trusted sources of leaked titles. It operated in total anonymity despite label demands to close it.

The label's anger was fueled by the fact that it's virtually impossible to plan the release of a popular artist's CD without the record leaking in advance on the web. While artists and labels occasionally leak their own records for promotional affect, most records are leaked without permission. The irony is that most leaks come from advance CD's sent to members of the trade to help fuel an early buzz for the album. Labels, so worried that their records would be leaked, have resorted to limiting distribution of trade CD's to only their most trusted media sources. In fact, when a big record is about to be released, labels often throw listening parties instead of shipping hundreds of advance CDs.

In 2008, added a twitter feed, sending messages of leaked albums to thousands of followers.

While the blog and feed earned it share of detractors, the webmaster stayed strong. "I had never planned for the site to be a haven for piracy and originally had just hoped for it to be a leading news source for the latest music leaks" he was quoted in an anonymous interview with

Every week he added more leaks. Then on January 5 this year, everything went silent. At the age of 23, Alan Carton died. At the time of his death, there were over 12,000 followers just on the Twitter feed. Journalist Christopher Weingarten wrote a moving piece in the Village Voice to give insight to the man behind it all.

The last entry, written from a hospital bed, was for the leaked album, Vampire Weekend. That record debuted at number one this week on the Billboard sales charts.

I don't know if we would ever have known who Alan Carton was, had he not died. No matter what you think about him and what he did, this is really a story about a guy, who loved music, and found a way to express himself, while he could.

And that's something a lot of people can relate to.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.