Thom Yorke‘s experiment of releasing his solo LP Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes using BitTorrent Bundles appears to have paid off, with the album having been downloaded 4.4 million times, meaning that the Radiohead frontman has potentially bagged $24 million from using the business model.
Yorke sold the LP at $6 (£3.95) a pop, meaning that he has likely netted millions from it since its release. His partnership with BitTorrent, a service which is largely seen by the general consumer as a tool for piracy, enabled users to legally download the album on a platform other than iTunes, the de-facto platform for music downloads in the 21st century. The partnership also placed a spotlight on the BitTorrent Bundles service, which was set up in 2013 in order to allow artists to mix free and paid downloads to distribute to consumers.
However, the report, revealed by Gigaom, notes that the $20 million figure doesn’t take into account the number of users who opted to download a portion of the LP for free. Unfortunately, Yorke has refused to divulge the difference in the amount of paid downloads and free downloads, meaning that we aren’t able to assess just how lucrative the experiment was. Regardless of this, given that BitTorrent gives artists 90% of all profits generated by the Bundles model, it’s still likely that he earned a far larger profit for selling Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes in this manner than he would have achieved had he decided to opt for a more traditional retail method.
Prior to the album’s release, Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich said that if the experiment worked, “it could be an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work.” The experimentation came after Yorke’s very vocal disapproval of streaming platforms such as Spotify, which he claimed didn’t financially compensate artists in the way that it should. Given the spotlight that’s now been placed on BitTorrent, many artists could now find themselves turning to its Bundles service in the future.