Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead, released his new album, “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes,” on Friday for $6 via the file-sharing service BitTorrent. As BitTorrent is normally associated more with piracy than album sales, many won’t know that it has a service called Bundles, which allows creators to send their work as torrents to the network’s 170 million users. BitTorrent’s user base is “the size of Spotify, Hulu, and Netflix combined and doubled,” Matt Mason, the service’s chief content officer, told The Guardian. “This is now what we hope is the world’s first direct-to-fan publishing system that truly has a global audience.”
Yorke is the first to try selling a Bundle. “I am trying something new, don’t know how it will go. but here it is : ),” Yorke said.
As music sales continue to slide, here are some other distribution models that Yorke could have tried:
Just six years old and 250 million users strong, Berlin-based SoundCloud has become one of the preeminent music services—prompting Twitter acquisition rumors at one point. The service makes it easy to upload and share music, as well as follow artists you like, making it home for new songs by many rappers and dance music artists. After listening, you can often buy the songs from third parties like iTunes. In March 2013, Beyoncé released a new song via the site, which has been played more than 11 million times. SoundCloud’s popularity has spawned many an article on how to get a following through the site.
Fans have given $82 million to artists via Bandcamp so far, according to the service. The site is like an iTunes for independent artists; you can set any price on your music (including zero), sell physical copies as well as digital files (which also come in high-fidelity FLAC files), set up pre-orders, sell within Facebook, and even have sales count toward Nielsen Soundscan bestseller charts.
Via an app
In 2013, Jay Z released his last album, “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” through an Android app for free to owners of several Samsung phone models a full week before its release. Unfortunately, the app crashed under the weight of downloads. No artist has tried to use the format in the same way since. “Someone else is going to figure that out and the next person will now know how to go into it better,” Jay Z told a radio station. “That’s my job. I took the hit for that.”
Actually, probably not. Yorke pulled his first album from Spotify in July 2013 after criticizing the low payouts from the popular streaming service. Though he put it much more eloquently: “The last desperate fart of a dying corpse.” Longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich said at the time: “The music industry is being taken over by the back door… and if we don’t try and make it fair for new music producers and artists…then the art will suffer.” Spotify eventually revealed that a song played on its service can earn earn an artist $0.006. Still, with Rdio, Beats Music, iTunes Radio and more in the streaming game, it is one way to reach many millions of people.
Sell physical copies
How old fashioned. Jack White, formerly of The White Stripes, releases vinyl records through his Third Man records. His solo album, “Lazaretto,” has sold 60,000 copies this year, making it the biggest-selling vinyl album since 1994. These aren’t any ordinary vinyls. White’s album contained a hand-etched hologram, something called “dual-groove technology” that allows either an electric or acoustic intro for a song depending on where needle is dropped, and 2 vinyl-only hidden tracks hidden beneath the center labels. This Ultra LP is a work of art. And it retails for $20.
Yorke is more than aware of the joys of this antiquated format: “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” is available on deluxe vinyl for $30 including the digital song files.