Thom Yorke is trying to change the music business — again. On Sept. 26, the singer from Radiohead — a group that revolutionized direct-to-fan digital sales with its pay-what-you-want In Rainbows LP in 2007 — released his second solo album through BitTorrent, the developer of a file-sharing protocol that began distributing music legitimately in 2013, after years of being favored by illegal download sites.
Released as a BitTorrent Bundle (the company’s name for file packages offered by artists), Yorke’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes racked up 1.1 million paid and free one-song downloads after six days. “We’re really happy with the number,” says Matt Mason, BitTorrent chief content officer.
By Mason’s count, about 11,000 content creators had signed up to distribute content to BitTorrent’s 170 million monthly users before Yorke’s release. But Boxes is unique because Yorke is the first content creator to sell a BitTorrent Bundle. The full album is available in 320Kbps files for $6. Yorke keeps 90 percent of the revenue, less credit card processing fees. BitTorrent hopes to roll out paid downloads to all artists by the end of the year.
Is this the future? “Thom wanted to be the first [to sell Bundles],” says Mason, “because we share a vision of a sustainable Internet for content creators.”