Bypassing the self elected gate-keepers.
September 26, 2014 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Radiohead's Thom Yorke just released a surprise album, Beyoncé-style [vox.com]
Tomorrow's Modern Boxes is only available on BitTorrent, where listeners can download the track "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes" for free, and watch the video. The full album can be downloaded for $6, and will also be available on vinyl and in a box set.

Via Pitchfork:
As an experiment we are using a new version of BitTorrent to distribute a new Thom Yorke record.

The new Torrent files have a pay gate to access a bundle of files..

The files can be anything, but in this case is an 'album'.

It’s an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around ...

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.

Enabling those people who make either music, video or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves.

Bypassing the self elected gate-keepers.

If it works anyone can do this exactly as we have done.

The torrent mechanism does not require any server uploading or hosting costs or ‘cloud’ malarkey.

It's a self-contained embeddable shop front...

The network not only carries the traffic, it also hosts the file. The file is in the network.

Oh yes and it's called Tomorrow's Modern Boxes.

Thom Yorke & Nigel Godrich
posted by Fizz (50 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
The full album will also be available on torrent for free within a few hours of when it is available for purchase, no doubt.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 1:30 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think they have any doubts about that either.
posted by bradbane at 1:35 PM on September 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


Honestly I'll probably hear this album when someone makes it available on YouTube. For some reason that's the easiest way to stream new music and YouTube has everything. ...And of course it's all there already.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:38 PM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was confused by this, why use bittorrent, this seems to be something Bandcamp has sorted. I asked a friend, and she said the rationale was tens of thousands Radiohead geeks would crush any server unlucky enough to find itself tasked with serving this. Bittorent works better with tons of people. Makes sense.
posted by Keith Talent at 1:40 PM on September 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


Alright. So I'm a Radiohead obsessive as you might guess from my username, but I am losing the thread of what Thom and Nigel are trying to achieve at this point:

Want to help indie artists with new distribution methods? What's wrong with BandCamp? Lots of people already complaining that BitTorrent is blocked at their school/campus etc, is technically difficult.

Yet another early adopter thing that may not payoff? Last year, Atoms for Peace were the launch artist for startup Soundhalo.com to stream their shows, for a price. Seems like that site shut down after just two shows.

That said, this new Thom album is pretty nice. And hence I remain a sucker.
posted by wingless_angel at 1:45 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Um, Thom, you know the technology exists to automatically add your song to every music library in the country, right? U2 taught me to expect music to just show up, none of this clicking nonsense. Get with the times, man.
posted by Huck500 at 1:49 PM on September 26, 2014 [8 favorites]


My main take-away is that this model means a person can put up any digital product, put a dollar amount on it and really, beyond the cost of production, not spend additional percentages of net in hosting their files or to pay for the shopping cart.
That being said, this album is good. I mean- APHEX TWIN and THOM in a single week?!
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 1:50 PM on September 26, 2014 [6 favorites]


Someone should tell U2 that this is how you release an album.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:51 PM on September 26, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't why, but "a new version of BitTorrent [with] a pay gate" is no BitTorrent to me.
posted by scruss at 1:55 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


The full album will also be available on torrent for free within a few hours of when it is available for purchase, no doubt.

This is also true of albums not officially released on torrent, except when it's earlier.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:56 PM on September 26, 2014


I don't why, but "a new version of BitTorrent [with] a pay gate" is no BitTorrent to me.

Many companies have been trying software distribution (ie, sales) over BitTorrent in the past 10 years or so, for the exact same reason - it distributes the cost of hosting the file to people who are already hosting the file.

Also, the difference between an explicit paygate and private torrent trackers that demand a certain percentage of seeding/upload for every download doesn't seem very large to me.
posted by muddgirl at 2:08 PM on September 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


I can't listen right now, but how does it compare to Amok and The Eraser?

I've never been as big a fan of Thom's skittering minimalist electronica as the more well-rounded Radiohead material, but he can hide some haunting melodies under those meticulous bleeps and bloops. Hopefully this outing is less like the Atoms for Peace version of "Ingenue" and more like the live version.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:13 PM on September 26, 2014


I'm confused too, but I think the hosting element is a big one? With BandCamp, you're uploading to their servers, and are beholden to their particular rules, viability, whims, monetization, etc. BitTorrent crowdsources the hosting and distribution, lets you retain control of the particulars, and generally do what you want while still receiving compensation (ideally). Or: it's a closed loop of artist-consumer with no middleman.
posted by naju at 2:13 PM on September 26, 2014


Rhaomi, its sort of a meeting between ERASER/ AMOK and TKOL. More melodic less glitchy.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 2:14 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also as they said, this can be a closed-loop distribution model for any particular set of files, not just an "album." So this might be how you distribute your next indie game, for instance, without being forced into Steam's ecosystem and rules.
posted by naju at 2:17 PM on September 26, 2014


muddgirl: Also, the difference between an explicit paygate and private torrent trackers that demand a certain percentage of seeding/upload for every download doesn't seem very large to me.

Beyond actually providing money to the band, instead of only supporting a 3rd party torrent site.

It's been interesting to see what the official BitTorrent site has been doing to try and legitimize their system, beyond the free open source software packages and Archive.org torrents. There have even been official releases on Pirate Bay and other public and private trackers, though those are often give-aways as teasers for back catalogs, complete albums, or ways to distribute indie films without having to muck with an actual distribution plan.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:19 PM on September 26, 2014


I stole this album via torrent. I might pay for it later.
posted by Fizz at 2:22 PM on September 26, 2014


Rhaomi: I can't listen right now, but how does it compare to Amok and The Eraser?

Thom Yorke – Tomorrow's Modern Boxes: our first thoughts (from The Guardian):
On first listen, this is a characteristic mixture of the compelling, the disconcerting and the dull. The usual Yorke solo-career suspects are here: zombie-shuffle rhythms and lonely, meandering piano lines, as if played on an abandoned set of ivories in a haunted house.... Albums sometimes take a while to work their way into your subconscious, but I can’t help being a bit disappointed: Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes seems a meagre, downbeat offering from a man who brought us the melodic majesty of Let Down and the muttering, murderous menace of Knives Out. Underwhelming.
This is just one review of (what will be) many.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:23 PM on September 26, 2014


Um, Thom, you know the technology exists to automatically add your song to every music library in the country, right? U2 taught me to expect music to just show up, none of this clicking nonsense. Get with the times, man.

[Insert The Bends joke]
posted by maudlin at 2:25 PM on September 26, 2014 [3 favorites]


BitTorrent the company was created pretty explicitely to find legitimate uses for BitTorrent the open-source software, although I don't know if they've yet money from anything except their BitTorrent client.
posted by muddgirl at 2:27 PM on September 26, 2014


BitTorrent the company was created pretty explicitely to find legitimate uses for BitTorrent the open-source software, although I don't know if they've yet money from anything except their BitTorrent client.

It's amazing how much that reminds me of what Napster tried to do there at the very end before shutting down (the first time), like 13 years ago.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:32 PM on September 26, 2014


(That article also talks about BitTorrent Bundles).
posted by muddgirl at 2:32 PM on September 26, 2014


It's amazing how much that reminds me of what Napster tried to do there at the very end

BitTorrent the company has been at it since 2005. The article talks about how they're not hurting for money, they're mostly just hurting for industry cred.
posted by muddgirl at 2:33 PM on September 26, 2014


On the quality question, Stereogum's review was glowing, and people at their "comment party" event were mostly really positive about it in real-time. I'm excited and looking forward to picking this one up. And I'm old and not prone to exuberance.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:46 PM on September 26, 2014


Quite disappointed that to get a WAV/FLAC copy I have to buy the full vinyl. I have nothing to play it on. I'd happily pay more for a FLAC, but it feels like a waste buying the vinyl.
posted by ElliotH at 2:50 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


..but then I just bought the vinyl because what the hell, I'm a sucker for Thom's stuff.
posted by ElliotH at 2:53 PM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


"It's a New World Order, sure: Anyone can sell anything on the internet these days. But nobody much cares unless the Old World Order already made certain that people will pay attention to everything you do from now on. Stars are not just like us; you get to avoid the self-elected gatekeepers only if you've become your own."
posted by The Hamms Bear at 3:05 PM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's ok. Amok part 2, but more atmospheric. It's Good Music to Work to.

(As an official Crazy Hardcore Fan I felt I had to chime in even though I don't really feel one way or the other about it. It's no Radiohead album, but then I thought The King of Limbs was no Radiohead album either)
posted by Windigo at 3:24 PM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Waitaminute... using BitTorrent to crowdsource the distribution of media. So the actual distributor saves the cost of both storage and bandwidth while the customer (at least those who seed after downloading) absorbs double-or-more the bandwidth? Which, with Data Limits in the U.S. (caps, extra charges, etc.) emerging as a Big Fucking Deal for wired bandwidth in the U.S. (because the mobile/wireless providers are making big bucks with their data-limited services) is going to place an extra burden on those (us) who may afford it the least? How is this NOT as crappy as "fast lane" internet?
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:29 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just bought it.
posted by Fizz at 4:09 PM on September 26, 2014


oneswellfoop - with torrenting clients you can throttle the bandwidth of your downloads and uploads. You're sharing the hosting with others and no one is forcing you to seed. I'm not seeing the problem...
posted by naju at 4:20 PM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


How is this NOT as crappy as "fast lane" internet?

Well, if everyone did this, then Bittorrent TM would act as a middleman for all music content purchases... oh wait, you wanted to know why this wasn't as crappy.

Digitization + internet means there simply isn't any value in distributing media content. So, either make the distribution of content a public utility or let various piles of capital compete to cartelize the business and extract rents. The idea that a private company is going to act as a good faith broker once it achieves an effective monopoly (i.e. Google) is delusional at this point, right?

So uh... what should we do?
posted by ennui.bz at 4:27 PM on September 26, 2014 [2 favorites]


Bought it :)
posted by grobstein at 4:59 PM on September 26, 2014


Definitely not a fan of this tracker locking me out after it's done downloading; I thought the whole point of BitTorrent was for me to help seed? Humble Bundle definitely does a better job of the whole "DRM-free, BitTorrent distributed" model.

Still, beats the pants off Amazon Music for ease of download.
posted by fifthrider at 5:44 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm not buying the album nor downloading the free song, mostly because my laziness and general inchoate malease regarding installing some random money-based software overrides my desire for the album, but I'm curious as to how the mechanics of the payment and gatekeeping work. How does an individual user of this new BitTorrentesque thing not have the ability to download it without paying for it? Is it just that Thom Yorke won't send you the torrent descriptor until you pay? And presumably it's not searchable from within this new client?

Is there anything other than manners, morals, and essentially unenforceable laws that prevents someone besides Thom Yorke from telling you the torrent descriptor, or that prevents you from successfully using it?

As distinctly opposed to someone seeding it on a more traditional torrent system, I mean. I understand there's nothing technical stopping someone from doing that; I'm just curious about the mechanics within the new system itself.
posted by Flunkie at 6:24 PM on September 26, 2014


Is there anything other than manners, morals, and essentially unenforceable laws that prevents someone besides Thom Yorke from telling you the torrent descriptor, or that prevents you from successfully using it?

Nothing as far as I can tell. I bought it, said I already had a torrent client, got a normal .torrent file, then added it to Transmission. Now I have a spiffy album.

The torrent is marked as private, meaning it's not searchable via DHT. As far as I know that's the only protection that there is on it.
posted by zsazsa at 6:30 PM on September 26, 2014


The torrent is marked as private, meaning it's not searchable via DHT. As far as I know that's the only protection that there is on it.

As far as I can tell, the tracker itself has some kind of IP log that requires that you download from the same computer you purchased the album on and lets you download the files only a limited number of times. On my system, the status on the torrent flipped over to an unspecified error state almost immediately after it finished downloading.
posted by fifthrider at 6:45 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


Huh, I bought the album at work then copied the .torrent to a machine at home and it downloaded just fine. I was also able to seed just fine too. I stopped it when my ratio got to 3.0 or so.
posted by zsazsa at 7:04 PM on September 26, 2014 [1 favorite]


It was really weird to buy this and then have it load in my usual torrent client. I can dig it though.

Somewhat jarringly, the torrent package includes some links to purchase the album, but I assume they're for the illegitimate torrenters.
posted by Standard Orange at 11:44 PM on September 26, 2014


"Beyoncé-style"?

Beyoncé released an album Radiohead-style. Has it been so long since In Rainbows that everyone has forgotten it?
posted by koavf at 11:44 PM on September 26, 2014 [10 favorites]


I bought it but when I went to load the .torrent file in to my bittorrent client, it automatically crashed the client. Every single time. So I downloaded it illegally. I mean, I already paid for it...
posted by fingers_of_fire at 11:51 PM on September 26, 2014


The phrase "only available on BitTorrent" uses a strange definition of "only" if you can also buy it elsewhere.

I'm sort of interested in buying the album (I like Eraser), and I don't mind the torrenting, but they're only MP3s. Why not FLAC? If you're not worried about bandwidth, then FLAC file sizes aren't a consideration. I'm not going to buy the Vinyl just to get FLAC.
posted by milkb0at at 1:24 AM on September 27, 2014


on first listen it certainly kicks The Eraser's ass.
posted by moorooka at 3:17 AM on September 27, 2014


No problems with the purchase or download, though it took longer than downloading from a conventional source. I liked The Eraser, but I liked this album more right away.
posted by chimpsonfilm at 6:47 AM on September 27, 2014


"So I downloaded it illegally. I mean, I already paid for it..."

Then you didn't download it illegally.
posted by koavf at 10:00 AM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


that is to say, i downloaded it from a non-official source.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 1:06 PM on September 27, 2014


Having now listened to the album I'm a big fan. In particular "Guess Again!" and "Interference". I think the whole album is slightly more accessible than Amok and certainly than The Eraser.
posted by ElliotH at 2:41 PM on September 27, 2014


I agree with ElliotH. My one-word summary: delightful. Next time, I'll pay attention to the lyrics.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:22 PM on September 29, 2014


Long Forbes article.
posted by josher71 at 1:03 PM on September 30, 2014


I want to buy it if for no other reason than to support entertainment released in through non-standard channels. Louis CK and KUNG FURY are both things I've purchased.
Definitely not a fan of this tracker locking me out after it's done downloading; I thought the whole point of BitTorrent was for me to help seed?
I don't understand it either. Not that this was a large download, but it was much slower to download for me than all of the not-so-legitmate torrents I've downloaded from private trackers. Why incur the bandwidth by only allowing peers run by the same people who run the trackers? That defeats the entire point of the protocol.
The torrent mechanism does not require any server uploading or hosting costs or ‘cloud’ malarkey.

It's a self-contained embeddable shop front...

The network not only carries the traffic, it also hosts the file. The file is in the network.
Sorry, disagree there. If the big thing about this was that all of your fans were the ones doing the distribution, not some giant set of servers some place, that's not what's happened here.

Disappointing.
posted by Brian Puccio at 7:33 AM on October 4, 2014


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