The results are in and the recent BitTorrent Bundle experiment from Radiohead front man Thom Yorke was a success—at least according to BitTorrent Inc. The company recently announced that the bundle, featuring Yorke’s new solo album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, was downloaded more than 1 million times since its release last Friday.
The only catch is BitTorrent’s one million figure counts both free and paid downloads. The free version offers one single and accompanying video from the album, while the $6 paid version offers the entire album of eight songs, as well as the video for the single A Brain In A Bottle.
Yorke decided against releasing pure sales figures and opted for the combined downloads figure, according to Consequence of Sound.
Why this matters: Artists of all stripes are struggling to figure out how to adjust to the new digital reality. So far, no entertainment sector has been as radically changed by the Internet and file sharing as the recording industry. Yorke’s latest experiment with BitTorrent is yet another example of how well-established artists can seek some measure of success without the established record labels.
Yorke’s new album is the first of two major BitTorrent Bundle releases scheduled for 2014. Before the end of the year, the pilot episode of a dystopian Sci-fi TV series Children of the Machine is slated for release as a free Bundle.
After that free release, fans can pay $9.95 to support the series, which needs at least 250,000 subscribers to move into production. Assuming the first season is produced, all episodes will become available to subscribers via BitTorrent.
Despite its legacy as a tool for piracy, the BitTorrent protocol is a very effective distribution mechanism. However, embracing BitTorrent technology doesn’t mean piracy is going anywhere. Yorke’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, for instance, was available on The Pirate Bay the day of its release.
Nevertheless, the aim of new forms of digital distribution isn’t, and shouldn’t be, to eradicate piracy. Instead, the goal is to offer easier ways to distribute new works to fans, and hopefully make it cheaper for both parties in the long run.
This is not the first time Yorke has been involved with an experiment in digital distribution. In 2007, Radiohead released the album In Rainbows via the band’s website, offering the new work on a “pay what you like” basis.