The Ballad of Greg Laden

So, the other day, I was trying to find some links to podcasts that I'd done to put on my media page, so I did something that I would never otherwise had thought to do; I entered my own name in the search box at Apple's iTunes store. Everybody has entered their own name in the Google Search box, right? But who thinks of searching for themselves on iTunes unless you are a musician.

Or, looking for your podcasts. Which I found, by the way, so that was good. But there was also a thing called The Ballad of Greg Laden.

So my brain started ticking away and it pretty much figured out that there would be a way to find out if your database is being searched for something, anything, and then convert what is being searched for into a reference pointing to a thing, then return the reference to the thing as though it was there all along so it appears that the search "found" it. Meanwhile, another process runs off and creates the thing real quick and puts it there so if the person doing the search clicks on the pointer to it, it's there.

And in this case, the thing would be a pre-existing song, simply renamed on the fly.

And just as my brain was in the middle of figuring this out, my finger, acting independently, clicked the 'buy" button so I got a copy of The Ballad of Greg Laden on my iTunes account.

On testing my hypothesis, though, I had to revise my model. I typed in some other names of people and they did not return the Ballad of Whomever. In the mean time, someone sent me via twitter, a link to an page which had the Ballad of Greg Laden on sale:


So, I'm pretty sure this is a very interesting scam, but one that is smart enough that I can appreciate it. However, since I can't replicate the behavior myself, I've come up with a refined hypothesis that i need you to test.

I think the search engine gets the name of the owner of the account or the computer on which it runs somehow and uses that to create the ballad. So, I need you to go to iTunes and search for your own name and see what happens. Report the results below.

If you are dumb enough to purchase the ballad, like I was, we can later compare them and see if they are all the same exact song. I'm betting they are. (There are no words on my version).

(Or is this just some internet meme that everybody knows about but me?)


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Seems to have been recorded in 1996 or earlier, titled: "The Ballad of Greg Laden" or "The Ballad of Greg Ladey" depending on the release. The artist died on TWA flight 800. You can find at least one person playing the tune for YouTube under the second title.

By Robert S. (not verified) on 18 Sep 2011 #permalink

I know that sort of thing used to happen a lot on the old file-sharing networks (and maybe it still does). But I would've expected iTunes to have more centralized control.

Nope. Nothing comes up for my name. I'm obviously not as important as you are!

I didn't find a song with my name, but I did find several podcasts by an American evangelical preacher who shares my surname. The shame! :D

Sorry, I do not own a windows or apple computer so I cannot use itunes.

The "Greg Ladey" version of the title was on a CD released in 1996. Somebody decided to release a compilation this year on the 15th anniversary of Dadi's death (that's what the "15me anniversaire" in the screen shot refers to), which is the only CD on which the "Greg Laden" version of the title appears. My guess is that somebody who was assembling the tracks tried a Google search on "Greg Ladey". As I suspected, the search result asks whether you meant "Greg Laden". The person doing the track listing probably "corrected" the title to your name.

I didn't have time to listen to any of it, but I saw several songs in his discography that were probably covers (e.g., "Both Sides Now"), and it is likely that those covers are instrumental versions as well.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Sep 2011 #permalink

And after I hit "Post", it occurred to me that somebody involved in producing the 15th anniversary compilation might have been a victim of Autocorrect. Your last name happens to be an English word.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 19 Sep 2011 #permalink

If Greg is a victim of autocorrect, then he can sue for the misappropriation of his (good?) name.

(I want a cut if you are successful).

I did a search on intellius people search and there is only one Gregory Laden in the US, formerly of Minneapolis, MN, Cambridge, MA, Arlington, MA, Saint Paul, MN and no other Greg Ladens.

I think you would have a pretty good case for misappropriation of your name to scam people into buying the music. It actually worked, you were scammed into buying it.

The promoters would probably welcome such a lawsuit because it would be free publicity and would increase sales. They would make more money even if they had to give you a cut of it.

Nope, no dice for me. No one has ever written a song for Marnie MacLean, ballad or otherwise. I do get two hits for a "Marni Kamins" and I get an albom by "Holdstock and Macleod"