Thom Yorke attempts to legitimize BitTorrent

A couple of days ago, Radiohead front man Thom Yorke tweeted the above photo as well as posted to his tumblr site. Then made the announcement that his new album will be made available for pay, via BitTorrent. BitTorrent, the site known for their sharing-is-caring philosophy is now trying to go legit. Thom Yorke will of course be helping in this process, thanks to all the publicity he'll be giving to it.

Here's the official release from him and Nigel Godrich

“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.”

The album should be called" The Opportunist." This "statement," is condescending to the core.
It’s an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around. Which part of the mechanics do you mean? Hitting the download button? Or paying for music?
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.
And if it works like the way other Big Tech companies have managed, the artist will get screwed in the end. New boss, same as the old.
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.
Yes, because multi-platinum artists couldn't possibly employee someone to handle the volume of traffic if they hosted the album on their own site. Why, that would be insane.

Far be it for me to come across as cynical but I'm getting a wee bit tired of megastars slapping themselves on the back for having "figured it out," or "trying something new." No one has figured it out. And in most cases, it's not trying something new, either. People have been stealing music for more than a decade now. U2's move to ,in its minds generously give away its album whether we wanted it or not, should have been seen as an artist "adapting to the digital world." Instead, it upset a lot of people. And Thom Yorke's waltz with technology, aint nothin' new either. This is the frontman of a group that, having well established its legacy and stuffed its bank accounts tried the pay what you want scheme for In Rainbows. What a brave bold move for a band with millions of fans. Now they're setting a fair market value price for their music...kinda like capitalism or something. Is this new? And putting it on another site to manage the traffic? That's new? I wonder, is BitTorrent doing this for free for Thom Yorke? (Answer: probably not. According to the New York Times, BitTorrent is charging artists ten percent. Regardless if BitTorrent has hired a PR firm they know the value of using star caché to further try to legitimize its image. If you reread the press release it sounds a lot like an ad for BitTorrent. Were they paid for that, too? Is the new business model to be embraced is one where musicians are now shills for digital companies? If the answer to all the above is yes, let me ask you this-- will the service remain free to all who want to use it? If so this would make BitTorrent one hell of a charity, but I kinda doubt it. Put it this way-- if Thom Yorke didn't care about the bottom line, we wouldn't have removed some of his catalog from Spotify. As always, it's helpful to look past the platitudes and follow the money.

about the author

kidsleepy CD copywriter with 18 years experience who has worked in many cities including New York, Atlanta, Montreal and currently Los Angeles. I snark because I care.

Comments (4)

  • kidsleepy's picture
    kidsleepy

    Slight-of-hand meets smarminess. Dont pay attention to the greedy man behind the curtain. Just stare at the innovation.This paragraph from The Trichordist sums up Bit Torrent's B.S. nicely. Or Big Tech's business models in general.

    How much money has Bit-Torrent invested in Radiohead’s career? Zero. But hey, they have distributed hundreds of millions of copies of the bands catalog to consumers without compensating the band a penny. Not one cent. Ev-er. And now they have the brass to charge artists a distribution fee for Bit Torrent Bundles? If Bit Torrent gave the artists the service for free, that would at least make some kind of sense. But as usual, Big Tech just heaps insult on injury on insult.

    Sep 29, 2014
  • Dabitch's picture
    Dabitch

    As a distribution protocol, Bittorrent, like any P2P is simply a protocol. In that sense this is akin to branding (and owning) any other application layer of the net, like MIME or SSH or FTP or... Even HTTP.

    Only mentioning that because every time you write about this topic, someone invariably jumps on Twitter to point out that this is a protocol. Yes it is. It's a protocol someone is trying to re-brand and own and charge for. This is an interesting development.

    And as David Lowery rightly points out, BitTorrent hasn't invested in any musicians at all. Rather the opposite.

    And since everyone has been encouraging musicians to share over Torrent for free, why are they now encouraging to share for a fee? What changed? I say, this is an elaborate brand repositioning.

    ... and what is it that prevents a band from using the protocol, charging a fee, and not paying BitTorrent? Is the protocol itself actually owned by BitTorrent?

    Sep 29, 2014
  • kidsleepy's picture
    kidsleepy

    When I write about BitTorrent, I'm writing about BitTorrent, Inc, the fucking company, not the so-called neutral file sharing protocol. It's really not that difficult to understand. A protocol isn't interested in revenue because it's a protocol. But the company of the same name is. That's why they're selling ad space on their browser.
    People are just being willfully ignorant to try and discredit something I've written without actually having read it.

    Sep 29, 2014