Thom Yorke Sells New Album via Paywall Protected Torrent

In a surprise move Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has released a new album, not through the regular channels, but via BitTorrent. Yorke is not sharing his work for free though, instead he's selling the album via a new paywalled torrent format which can't be shared with non-paying fans.

Radiohead’s Tom Yorke has been very critical of new music services such as Spotify. Last year he pulled his music from the popular streaming service claiming that “new artists get paid fuck all.”

Yorke would like to see more money flowing to the artists and in an effort to accomplish this goal he has teamed up with BitTorrent Inc.

The San-Francisco company has experimented with artist bundles for a while and together with Yorke they have now launched their first paywalled torrent. After paying $6, fans can download Yorke’s “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” album via a protected torrent file.

“It’s an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around,” Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich write in a joint statement.

“If it works well it could be an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work. Enabling those people who make either music, video or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves. Bypassing the self elected gate-keepers,” they add.

In recent years BitTorrent Inc. has been working very hard to show that its technology can be used for more than “piracy” and today’s bundle is a prime example. After releasing various free samples from other artists, Yorke’s full album is definitely a breakthrough.

The paywall and other restrictions are not something traditional BitTorrent users are used to, but it’s a necessary “evil” to draw mainstream artists to the model.

BitTorrent Inc. emphasizes that the album itself is DRM-free but that the torrents do have copy protection. This means that people can’t easily share them with others who haven’t paid.

“BitTorrent Bundles features protected torrents, limiting the number of times a torrent can be downloaded. While Bundle content is DRM-free, torrents are protected with this new way of managing how often a Bundle is downloaded,” BitTorrent Inc. notes.

This works very much like private trackers, where only members can share files with each other. With the “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” torrent those who pay are a “member” and only they can share the file.

It will be interesting to see if other artists are also willing to join the experiment. A full album for $6 definitely sounds like a fair price and the artists get to keep most of the cash. BitTorrent Inc. says it currently gets 10% of the revenue for enabling the distribution.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, several unauthorized torrents without a paywall are also doing the rounds on various torrent sites. The good news is, however, that the paywalled version currently has more people sharing than the pirated one.

Those interested in Thom Yorke’s “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” can grab a copy here.

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