Less than a decade after Radiohead offered up In Rainbows with a pay-what-you-want model, the group’s frontman, Thom Yorke, is now selling a surprise new album via BitTorrent. The record, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, is available now at the pay-gated cost of $6. A video for the album’s first track “A Brain in a Bottle,” which expands on the haunting vocals and glitchy electronic music of Yorke’s 2006 debut album The Eraser, is available for free. A link to buy the record on vinyl is also included. A step-by-step guide explains how to get the record.
The singer said in a joint statement with his Atoms for Peace collaborator, producer Nigel Godrich, that he hoped it would help regain control of file sharing. “It’s an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around,” they said. “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 [and] bypassing the self-elected gatekeepers.
“If it works, anyone can do this exactly as we have done,” Yorke and Godrich continued. “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.”
In this model, the music publisher covers transaction fees, while BitTorrent takes 10 percent after that. The artist is then able to keep any data about its fans – impressions, downloads, stream info, email addresses – and they’re allowed to publish in any format. A BitTorrent press release compares this to models where online distributors take 40 percent of payment and keep all associated info.
Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes track list:
1. “A Brain in a Bottle”
2. “Guess Again!”
4. “The Mother Lode”
5. “Truth Ray”
6. “There Is No Ice (For My Drink)”
7. “Pink Section”
8. “Nose Grows Some”