Continuing the trend of “Surprise!” album releases that his band Radiohead pretty much started seven years ago, Thom Yorke just up and released an album on BitTorrent today. It’s called Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes and it’ll cost you $6.
The eight-track record, which Yorke made with longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, also heralds the arrival of a new feature for BitTorrent Bundles: paygates. The pay gates mean that Bundles, which have been used by artists ranging from Madonna to De La Soul to release new projects, can now be monetized. An artist puts a price on their work, and then fans can pay for it through BitTorrent (sounds weird, right?) using a credit card or PayPal. “It’s an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around,” Yorke and Godrich said in a statement. “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.”
This almost feels like déjà vu. Back in 2007, seemingly unconcerned with piracy or making money, Radiohead released In Rainbows through its website and let fans pay whatever they wanted for it. In the years since, scores of artists have dropped albums out of the blue and/or with alternate payment options on a number of sites/services/Samsung apps. Even Beyoncé air-dropped her last self-titled record without warning—it was on iTunes, not BitTorrent, but it was still a big “bye, Felicia” to the traditional ways massive pop stars release records. (Though, considering the reaction to that “Surprise!” U2 album Apple unceremoniously infused into everyone’s iTunes library, it’s not a tactic without risk.)
There’s no word on what the Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes release means for the new Radiohead record that the band is reportedly working on. (Perhaps the band will just release that through its app?) In the meantime, we hear Kanye West has a new album already in the can, so we’re just going to monitor GitHub until it drops.
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