Reports that Radiohead’s Thom Yorke made a whopping £13m from a solo album he published solely via the BitTorrent website have been met by cries of “finally!” from those hoping for a direct means of making music profitable outside of the shackles of conventional promotion and distribution.
But, unfortunately for those who thought it must be too good to be true, it was. A spokeswoman for Thom Yorke described the reports as “totally and utterly false”.
Tomorrows Modern Boxes, which was released on BitTorrent for $6 last September, hadn’t made anywhere near the approximate figures being bandied about.
The news will be a blow to those who were beginning to see the web as a means of safeguarding the livelihoods of musicians and artists rather than simply a way of distributing content
It follows a claim in the wake of the Taylor Swift’s decision to withdraw her back catalogue from Spotify that the streaming site has so far paid $2bn to artists. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the business, which has to 12.5m subscribers, had paid out $1bn to the recording industry and artists from 2008 to 2013, and another $1bn since then.
Yorke, who once described Spotify and the music industry as the last "desperate fart of a dying corpse", released his record on BitTorrent - usually the destination of choice for those searching for Game of Thrones episodes to illegally download-- as “an experiment”.
"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,” he said in a press release in September.
"Bypassing the self-elected gate-keepers. If it works anyone can do this exactly as we have done,” Yorke said.
"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."
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Despite the murky suggestions about how much the record has earned Yorke (the reports containing dubious mathematical means of calculation span from between $20m to $1m) it is clear that the experiment was successful in its reach, having been downloaded 4.4m times – a quarter of which in its first week. That total is as much as One Direction's 2013 album, Midnight Memories.
While Yorke declined to reveal the true amount accrued by Tomorrows Modern Boxes, but his spokeswoman said “if only!” the £13m reports were correct.
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