Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Unleashes Surprise New Album Via BitTorrent

yorkegrab2Because he’s already made more money than some small nations, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke is free to experiment with new ways of distributing his music. It wasn’t that long ago that the band tried a pay-what-you-want model with its In Rainbows album. And today, Yorke announced the release of his first solo album in nearly a decade as a bundle via BitTorrent.

Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is a collection of eight songs and a video for which Yorke is charging the relatively low price of six dollars. He’s also giving away one song, “Brain in a Bottle,” for free as a teaser.

But it’s not really the dollar value that makes the release newsworthy. It’s the use of a BitTorrent bundle to deliver the music.

Basically, after the first group of customers buys and downloads the album, they will then begin seeding the files so that future buyers will be getting their downloads from those original downloaders, and then sharing again with subsequent buyers. It effectively decentralizes the downloading process and reduces costs for the artist.

In this case, BitTorrent says that 90% of the $6 price goes to Yorke; significantly more than he would have received if he’d had to rely on a digital distributor or host and manage the downloads on his own.

“If it works well, it could be an effective way of handing some control of Internet commerce back to the people who are creating the work,” explains Yorke in a statement, “enabling those people who make either music, video or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves.”

One issue that Yorke probably won’t face, but could cause trouble for smaller artists who try this format is having their work disappear from torrents.

If at some point people stop seeding the files, then people who want to buy the music may be out of luck. It’s akin to the old retail problem of CDs, tapes, and albums going out of print; something that isn’t supposed to happen in the digital age.

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