Friday, 26 September 2014

Thom Yorke, bit-Torrent, and the act of the surprise

It was a normal Friday, processing some words on a leading word processing programme. Then, Twitter changed it all.

Twitter is amazing. First of all, it brought to my attention that Radiohead's Thom Yorke had released a new album digitally via bit-Torrent. Then, it brought to my attention that this sort of thing is relatively common using new features on the file-sharing software. Who knew? (lots of people, seemingly)

On Monday, I downloaded my first ever digital album (Syro, by Aphex Twin). And now, on what has been a huge week for new music for me (new soundtrack for 'Gone Girl' by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross streaming), I have downloaded my second. I'm so 2014.

Released via bit-Torrent, I had to download the software after paying a modest $6. It was alien to me. But very easy. I understand the appeal of instantly being able to listen to the music. Like that.

I have never used bit-Torrent before, nor any such software. And my research into music piracy conjures up negative associations with the software, hence my surprise when I read about the new album 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes' being released this way. As I mentioned though, others have experimented with this strategy, but oor Thom might just popularise it. Like Radiohead did the pay-what-you-want model on 7th record 'In Rainbows' in 2007.

As an expert of music piracy who also knows nothing about actually engaging in music piracy (perfect conditions for an academic), I can only assume this programme on my desktop is not a pandora's box of pirated content just waiting to happen and that they thought this through. 

And so, but a mere week-or-so after U2's efforts to distribute their latest album in an innovative way (and receiving widespread criticism in the process), it looks like Thom Yorke is back to save the universe.

Ultimately, from reading the blurb over on the official Radiohead website, it is clear the move aims to bypass the likes of Spotify which he and producer Nigel Godrich routinely slam in the press as bad for business.

Let's not forget, to return to my 'stage-in-the-game' hypothesis that has featured on many a former blog entry (and summarised in the context of Daft Punk well here) that what works best for one artist is not the same as what works best for another. Thom has a legion of fans he has earned on the back of conventional business practices in the pre-Napster '90's. This move will not catch on. Major record labels have more of a strangehold than ever before, despite appearances. 

Anyhow, let's see how it all plays out in the coming weeks.

Tweets @musicpiracyblog

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