How A Fabricated Story About Iron Maiden’s Love Of Music Pirates Became Internet Truth

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Wouldn’t it be awesome if heavy metal icons Iron Maiden leveraged data about which regions of the world pirated their music to plan a multi-million dollar global concert tour? Yeah, it’d be awesome, if it were true.

So awesome to my anarchistic ears that I was halfway through reblogging the reblog of a Rolling Stone story before I learned that I couldn’t actually verify any of the facts.

In the last 48 hours, tech and music outlets have heaped praise on the supposed the tech savviness of the 80s metal band, who allegedly analyzed Bittorrent data to plan a concert tour in South America. Bittorrent, a popular peer-to-peer file-sharing client, can often reveal hidden fan bases around the world, since the traffic and contents can be analyzed in aggregate.

Musicmetric, an entertainment forecasting startup that analyzes bittorrent and social media data, was quoted in a Guardian piece on November 29, arguing that bands could potentially leverage the wealth of online information to plan their concerts.

Then, on December 20, a tech blog, citeworld, ran this click-delicious headline “How Iron Maiden found its worst music pirates — then went and played for them.” The piece implied that MusicMetric directly advised Iron Maiden to plan an otherwise unscheduled concert tour in South America.

“[The] CiteWorld story is sadly not substantiated,” a spokesman for MusicMetric wrote to me in an email. “We never stated or implied that Iron Maiden had used our analytics to plan its tours.”

“Once someone writes it and someone tweets, there’s not a lot that anyone can do,” said the MusicMetric spokesman, who preferred to remain anonymous. Despite the glowing press coverage, MusicMetric worries about taking credit for something they clearly didn’t do.

In fairness to my fellow writers, I was part of the hype machine. I retweeted the story before I had the chance to fully read it. In the course of writing this post, Citeworld has issued an apology and correction, but that hasn’t stopped the Internet rumor machine from cranking out more stories today.

After all, it seems like a plausible story. Indeed, beloved science fiction writer Neil Gaiman has become a full-fledged piracy supporter, after finding out that regions that pirated his books also bought more of them.

“Places where I was being pirated, particularly Russia, where people were translating my stuff into russian and spreading it out into the world, I was selling more and more books,” he gushed.

I suppose it’s possible that Iron Maiden has, in fact, used Bittorrent data to plan their South American tour. I reached out but haven’t heard immediately back. But, I wouldn’t bet any Bitcoin that they do.

This isn’t the first time that the Internet rumor machine has come to the wrong conclusions. During the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers, amateur sleuthing wrongly suggested that missing student, Sunil Tripathi, might be the culprit. The rumor eventually spiraled out of control into front-page headlines implying that Tripathi was enemy #1.

I really wish MusicMetric had advised Iron Maiden on how to make millions of dollars from music pirates. It’s such a good story. Too good, evidently, to be true.

[Image Credit: Lee McLaughlin]