Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has a new album, and it’s available exclusively via BitTorrent. Yorke is the first artist using BitTorrent’s Bundles program to sell downloads, making it a test case for what could be another option for artists to monetize their music or videos.
Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, as the album is called, will cost fans $6, but one of the songs and the music video that goes along with it are free. BitTorrent has been experimenting with artist-authorized downloads for more than two years, but so far has only asked users to give up their email address in order to “unlock” a download.
The Yorke album marks the first time a BitTorrent bundle is actually up for sale; the singer called it “an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something the general public can get its head around” in a letter accompanying the release.
This isn’t the first time P2P file sharing has been combined with paid downloads. BitTorrent itself briefly experimented with a download store, which was shut down six years ago because its DRM restrictions didn’t bode well with the company’s audience. Since-defunct file sharing client LimeWire also used to sell music through a dedicated store, and more recently, VODO has begun to sell its own form of bundles, which are also distributed via the BitTorrent client.
However, BitTorrent as a company has the advantage of a huge built-in audience of more than 170 million monthly active users. With its bundles, it is clearly shooting to be a competitor in the artist-controlled self-publishing space, going head-to-head with companies like Vimeo or VHX.tv — and a high-profile partner like Thom Yorke could help the company to make inroads with other artists.