Torrent sites and outspoken artist advocates aren’t usually two groups that you’d expect to find aligned on a viewpoint, let alone a full blown creative project. The issue of course is that BitTorrent and sites of its ilk are widely associated with piracy. Since the early days of Napster and illicit MP3 blogs, the technology has rapidly evolved to “torrenting.”
The two camps can however come together, it seems, as Thom Yorke’s album release via BitTorrent hopes to prove.
Illegal downloaders habitually turn to torrents as their first port of call for digital content that they don’t care to pay for, tarring the wider platforms with the same piracy brush.
While the collaboration with Yorke is 100% above board and linked to a payment method, there will still be those who use the torrent site to access illegal copies of the music. For those who choose the ethical route, though, BitTorrent will take 10% of the $6 bundle price for the new album, which is appropriately entitled “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.”
The contrast to this particular project becomes even more stark when we consider how vocal the Radiohead singer has been on the subject of some digital music sources.
Spotify in particular came in for a good verbal bashing from him last year, when he pulled his “Atoms for Peace” release from the the service citing low payments and an ineffective business model. Although the one-time payment involved in purchasing his latest release is closer to the traditional model of music being priced to own, the $6 tag values it at only a little more than half of a standard priced CD or iTunes download. Factor in the ability to simply take the files from the same service that’s offering up the bundle and the proposition becomes even more curious.
Despite the apparent contradictions between denouncing a legitimate digital music service shortly before supporting one that can best be described as “gray market,” Yorke’s experiment is undoubtedly an interesting one. As with his main band’s pioneering test of the “pay what you want” model with “In Rainbows” back in 2007, “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” will challenge artists to take a step back and look at how they can use emerging platforms to add new ways for fans to support their music.