Why Thom Yorke’s New Album Is Kind Of A Big Deal

Looks like we have another LP to add to our growing list of unusual album releases this year: Thom Yorke’s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes just broke ground at BitTorrent this past Friday, and it’s creating quite the buzz. Certainly, a surprise album warrants such a response. But more talked-about than the surprise album is the platform it’s being offered on. BitTorrent has a longstanding reputation for being a haven for illegal downloads. Music, movies, television shows (you name it), can all be copied there, free of charge. Put simply, BitTorrent is a living nightmare for the entertainment industry.

But rather than vilifying the site, Yorke chose to embrace it. According to the LA Times, BitTorrent “offers downloaders a free sample of its content — in this case, a single and a video from the album — before inviting them to pay to unlock the rest.” The full album is selling for a mere $6.00 — nearly half the price of what a would-be Thom Yorke album would sell for on iTunes. So, why the price cut?

Aside from the fact that iTunes takes a 30% cut (BitTorrent takes 10%), there’s a deeper, political meaning behind the decision. Thom Yorke and bandmate, Nigel Godrich, said in a written statement:

This comes as no surprise considering Yorke’s resistance to mainstream methods. If you remember, Radiohead’s 2007 album, In Rainbows, had a pay-whatever-you-think-its-worth policy. By omitting these big-industry money gimmicks, it restores trust between buyer and seller. The way I see it, that’s what makes this power shift so impactful. In a way, it’s less about the music and more about his relationship with his audience — he shows up for them.

Now, if you want to buy it off of BitTorrent, you will need a software the runs the BitTorrent protocol. You can get started on that, here.

So how’s the actual album? In a review released on Sunday, New York Times music critic Jon Pareles described the 38-minute album as “poised between music and entropy.” OK, we’re intrigued.

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