Downloads of Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s first solo album in eight years, “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes,” topped 400,000 in the first three days of he surprised fans with its release on the BitTorrent file-sharing network.
Album downloads had hit about 408,000 as of 10 a.m. Eastern on Monday, according to BitTorrent. It became available Friday at 11 a.m. ET.
Yorke’s release took advantage of the BitTorrent Bundle feature, and it is the first time users can pay to “unlock” content distributed via the peer-to-peer software. While BitTorrent recorded the total number of downloads, however, it is not disclosing how many of those users actually paid the $6 fee to unlock the eight tracks (with a rep explaining that this info belongs to the publisher of the bundle, and that Yorke is not releasing that).
For BitTorrent, the release of Yorke’s album exemplifies its attempts to get in the good graces of content owners — many of whom have viewed the company’s software as facilitating rampant piracy. BitTorrent notes that it does not link to pirated content from its own services or software.
With “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes,” fans can pay using a credit card or PayPal in 140 currencies. The publisher covers transaction-processing fees, after which BitTorrent takes a 10% cut.
Yorke tweeted about the BitTorrent bundle when it was released on Sept. 26:
“If it works well, it could be an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to the 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,” Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich wrote in a blog post on BitTorrent’s site.
Yorke and his team worked with BitTorrent on the release for nine months, to ensure the release and payment processes would work as expected, according to BitTorrent chief content officer Matt Mason. “We wanted to be able to scale direct-to-fan distribution,” he said. “Our biggest fear was that something would break — but nothing broke.”
BitTorrent, which touts a user base of 140 million users, hopes to be able to open up the pay-gate bundle feature to all creators by the end of the year.
“Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” also is available for purchase on vinyl via the W.A.S.T.E. Shop website for £30 ($48.72).
Radiohead had previously tested music-biz conventions in 2007 when it released “In Rainbows,” letting fans pay whatever they wanted (or nothing) for the album. The British band is currently in the studio recording a new album.