Why Thom Yorke Chose BitTorrent To Release A Surprise Album

Thom Yorke advocates for better profits for recording artists by releasing a surprise album exclusively on the file-sharing site BitTorrent.
Posted at 7:51 PM, Sep 26, 2014

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke released another statement-making solo album on Friday under the freedom of BitTorrent, a file-sharing website.

The album, “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes”, contains eight brand new tracks for less than a dollar a track, only $6 to download via BitTorrent Bundles.  Why sell on the peer-to-peer website?

Yorke explains in a press release, “The Torrent mechanism does not require any server uploading or hosting costs or ‘cloud’ malarkey. It’s a self-contained shop front."

Essentially Yorke, fed up with the middlemen of the music sales, wanted to experiment with a paywall release to see if people will pay and more importantly if more of the profits came back to him, the artist.

Keep in mind, BitTorrent still takes 10% off the top of sales. Apparently, Yorke says that’s a better deal than what music’s “gate-keepers” keep, referring to services like Apple iTunes which keeps 30% according to Billboard.

This isn’t the first time Yorke or Radiohead has experimented with a release.  In 2007, the band released “In Rainbows” for essentially tips, offering fans to pay-what-they-wanted for the album or even nothing at all.

Wired claims Yorke and Radiohead were the creators of the surprise online album seven years ago after “In Rainbows”, but recently other artists have made the trend more mainstream.   Beyonce’s latest record became an overnight sensation after she dropped it without warning or advertising on iTunes.  And at Apple’s September event CEO Tim Cook released U2’s latest LP for free to every iTunes subscriber. (Video via Radiohead / Beyonce / Apple)

Even though fans love a surprise, a few writers dove into the other story surrounding the release, the BitTorrent Bundles themselves.

BitTorrent’s introduced bundles in May 2013.  Whether you’ve encountered them or not, bundles are off to a running start so far. Mashable reports they’ve generated more than 120 million downloads from 11,000 creatives this year. (Video via BitTorrent)

CCO Matt Mason told Mashable listeners should expect more.  "We'll be working on more pay-gate projects with a number of people, but can't name names just yet. The pay-gate platform will be open to all creators as soon as it is ready."


CNET explains Yorke’s album is first to test BitTorrent’s paywall feature.  While Thom hopes the wall will bring artist and listener closer, Mason hopes the bundles will clear the torrent site who it said is wrongfully associated with music piracy.

You can hear “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” for yourself by visiting and following the link on the homepage.

The video includes images from Getty Images.