The Man Who Destroyed the Recording Industry

Glover. Image from The New Yorker.On September 9, 2009, Bennie Lydell Glover of Shelby was indicted in Alexandria, Virginia, for felony conspiracy to commit copyright infringement.

Two years earlier Glover left work to encounter Cleveland County deputies alongside his truck. As they arrested him, the FBI was simultaneously raiding his house.

The popular assumption is that Napster, created in 1999, was chiefly responsible for the plummet in sales of recorded music. But recent accounts make clear that Glover was there first and created the most damage.

Glover, employed at Polygram’s CD pressing plant in Kings Mountain, began slipping disks out of the factory as early as 1994.  He regularly took movies and video games but found a market for rap CDs, especially artists like Jay Z, Eminem, and in time Kanye West.

He would drop off bags of disks for resale at Shelby barbershops but, via Internet file-sharing, found listeners all across the country. Polygram fought back, installing increased security measures, but Glover long evaded the law, sneaking CDs out behind oversize belt buckles past wand-wielding guards.

Glover, who testified against his co-conspirator, pled guilty and served three months in prison. Meanwhile sales of recorded music shrank with total revenue cut in half in the period between 2000 and 2010.

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