Last week Thom Yorke sprung his second solo album on an unsuspecting public. The prolific Radiohead singer revealed a characteristically twitchy video for lead single ‘A Brain in a Bottle’ and released the album ‘Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes’ via peer-to-peer file sharing protocol BitTorrent, for a small cost of 6 US$.
BitTorrent is commonly associated with the illegal distribution of pirated copyright material, but this album, the company’s first ‘pay-gated bundle’, marks their intent to shake this image. It claims to have no control over what people share via its networks, and is actively working with artists to instigate fresh distribution models that can bypass the ‘self elected gatekeepers’ of digital music (as Yorke calls the
No stranger to unorthodox methods of releasing music, Yorke and Radiohead famously released their 2007 album ‘In Rainbows’ as a ‘pay-what-you-want’ download. A generally successful and landmark experiment, which eclipsed the entire profits of their preceding LP ‘Hail to the Thief’ from pre-sales alone.
In another act of distributive defiance, U2 also recently coincided the giveaway of their new album with the release of the iPhone 6. The Dublin dinosaurs were clearly plugged in enough to realise that demand for more of their delay-drenched bellowing would be meagre to say the least. This then was a very shrewd move on their part to pair up with Apple and automatically download the album to anyone with an iTunes account. This force-feeding was marketed as a ‘gift’ but one that not everyone was pleased to receive; within hours how-to articles and videos started popping up helping users to get rid of the album, and after a few days Apple mercifully created a one-click removal tool.
Displeasure from some then, and hilarious bemusement from others – which sparked the very enjoyable website whoisu2.com Not that this would trouble Bono and co. however, the deal making them a reported $120 million – a staggering amount for any album in today’s climate.
“Jobs would never have allowed this you know”
Making money from music is becoming harder and harder it seems, and it’s great to see big artists experimenting with how they publish their work, personally I’d like to see some more creative approaches, Jack White apparently used to sew copies of early White Stripes recordings into furniture when working as an upholsterer. From now on I intend to be keeping an eye out for the new Daft Punk record in my Cheerios.