Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has announced that his latest album, Tomorrow's Modern Boxes, is available right now and is being sold to fans via BitTorrent. In a letter co-signed by producer Nigel Godrich, Yorke describes this approach to distribution as "an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around." The singer says everything will be handled via "a new version of BitTorrent," though he's actually just referring to paid BitTorrent Bundles.
The gated format allows filmmakers, musicians, and other artists to deliver content to fans directly. Moby, Madonna, and others have experimented with bundles, but those have been free. BitTorrent says this is the "first paygated torrent in history." And as Yorke suggests, it's not exactly a sales model most consumers are familiar with. Yorke's bundle includes the 8-track album and a music video.
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Yorke has priced Tomorrow's Modern Boxes at $6 and it's already available for download. "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," Yorke wrote. Earlier in the week, Yorke hinted that new music was on the way when he posted a photo of a mysterious white record. Tomorrow's Modern Boxes is also available on vinyl, and those orders include a digital copy of the album.
Yorke and his band Radiohead have often explored new ways of getting music to their fans; in 2007, Radiohead let people choose their own price when purchasing In Rainbows. More recently, the band has experimented with distributing unreleased content through its own smartphone app. Yorke's full letter on his latest effort can be read below.
As an experiment we are using a new version of BitTorrent to distribute a new Thom Yorke record.
The new Torrent files have a pay gate to access a bundle of files..
The files can be anything, but in this case is an 'album'.
It’s an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around ...
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.
If it works anyone can do this exactly as we have done.
The torrent mechanism does not require any server uploading or hosting costs or ‘cloud’ malarkey.
It's a self-contained embeddable shop front...
The network not only carries the traffic, it also hosts the file. The file is in the network.
Oh yes and it's called
Tomorrow's Modern Boxes.
Thom Yorke & Nigel Godrich