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Rock band Counting Crows released four tracks of its new album Underwater Sunshine on BitTorrent Monday, complete with artwork and 25 pages of liner notes. Counting Crows singer Adam Duritz told me during a phone conversation last week that he can’t think of a better way to get his music in front of people. “I’m surprised everyone isn’t doing it,” he said.
BitTorrent Inc. is featuring the release on its home page and within its file sharing clients, which are used by 150 million people every month. The company has cooperated with musicians and film makers in the past, but this marks the higest-profile music release for BitTorrent to date. Counting Crows used to be under contract with Universal Music-owned Geffen Records, and Duritz told me that the band used to clash with the label about innovative digital release formats. “Now that we are independent, we can do anything we want,” he explained.
Duritz said that the major labels don’t understand many of the changes going on in the music biz these days. “They are so used to being in control – being out of control must be really scary,” he told me. Labels would continue to pay huge sums of money to promote their music in stores and on the air — a practice commonly known as payola — even though the audience on BitTorrent is much more interested in music than people listening to radio nowadays, argued Duritz: “The future is not just in bribing radio and record stores.”
One of the unique features of the bundle are the 25 pages of liner notes, especially considering this kind of information gets lost on Spotify & Co. Duritz said that he personally wanted to include the liner notes in the bundle. The band’s new album consists entirely of cover songs, and the liner notes are one way of explaining why they chose to include these tracks, as well as pay tribute to the original artists. “We owe a debt of gratitude to these bands,” said Duritz.
So what about piracy? Duritz admitted that file sharing, along with other factors of the changing digital distribution landscape, has had an impact on musicians. “It has cut the money you used to see in half – or more,” he said. However, musicians shouldn’t sit on the sidelines and not reap the benefits of something like BitTorrent, he argued: “I think people blow up planes, but it’s not a very good reason not to take one.”