Premix Leaks: Lupe Fiasco may hate these—an unmixed version of his Food & Liquor came out months early—but premix leaks are becoming routine. TV on the Radio's Cookie Mountain also came out months prematurely, the Shins' Wincing the Night Away (due in January) has leaked at least twice in different versions, and Bloc Party's A Weekend in the City (due in February) hit the networks in November. The solution now belongs to the P.R. people—lucky Lupe got an early review calling him the future of hip hop, and a correctly leveraged premix can garner a spike of welcome, unexpected publicity.
Virtual Release: If legendary 78-collector Joe Bussard could plug an iBook directly into his Victrola, he'd be making these. This is real ghostly stuff sourced from unreleased sessions, radio broadcasts, or repo'd master tapes. That's all time-honored bootleg chow, sure, but virtual releases go straight from the source to the file shares, skipping physical media entirely. For instance: WFMU recently popularized a Faust album that never made it past a few Virgin Records promo tapes until someone copied it up to MP3. Companion to this are homemade virtual compilations—a stack of funk 45s, say—issued direct from the collector's originals to the fileshares with some kind of searchbait name like "MY HOT FUNK 45s." These albums are aimed at audiences so microscopic there's almost no profit in pressing up hard copies—and as such, they're usually pretty great.
Give It Away Now: Nobody can steal what you give away. A California band called Wooden Shjips put out their EP for free this year; all you had to do was ask and there was a real record in your actual hands. And it was really good, too—blown-out Les Rallizes homage with vocals echoplexed to infinity. In fact, it was so good that I bought a copy with my own actual money, just for old times' sake.