Thom Yorke made as much as $20M from his BitTorrent experiment

As part of its mission to convince the music industry that it isn’t just for copyright infringers, BitTorrent launched a new product in 2013 called “Bundles,” which allow musicians and other artists to combine free downloads with paid products. One of the most high-profile figures to experiment with this feature last year was Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, who used it for his new album — and not only did he become the most legally-downloaded BitTorrent artist in 2014, but he may have made as much as $20 million.

What makes those kinds of numbers even more impressive is that Yorke didn’t launch his album bundle, called Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, until the end of September. By October — according to a comment on Twitter from an editor with Billboard magazine — the bundle had already been downloaded over 4 million times, and a year-end retrospective from BitTorrent says that the total number of downloads was 4.4 million.

When he released the album, Yorke said in a statement that he hoped the bundle would become an alternative to traditional music releases for more artists, saying it could prove to be “an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work [and] bypassing the self elected gate-keepers.”

Thom Yorke BitTorrent bundle

The paid portion of the bundle, which included seven songs, cost $6 to download — meaning the total amount of revenue generated by the project could be as high as $26 million. Since BitTorrent gives 90 percent of the income from its bundles to the artist, that means Yorke could have made almost $24 million from the album. That’s far more than he likely would have made releasing it using almost any other traditional method.

Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple, as a number of music-industry watchers have pointed out: the $26-million revenue figure assumes that everyone who downloaded the bundle paid for it. But bundles also include free downloads — in Yorke’s case, a song and a video. And BitTorrent allows the artist to decide whether to release the exact breakdown of free vs. paid, something that Yorke has chosen not to do, according to BitTorrent’s head of content strategy Straith Schreder.

Whatever the actual breakdown of paid vs. free is, however, more than 4 million downloads is still a big number, and if even half of those who downloaded it paid $6 for the bundle then Yorke still made a substantial amount of revenue with very little overhead. It certainly makes BitTorrent’s bundle program look pretty good compared with other distribution methods such as iTunes, which takes a 30-percent cut of the proceeds.

Update: Glenn Peoples of Billboard magazine estimates that Yorke probably made between $1 million and $6 million on his album, based on the likely number of people who paid for it rather than just getting the free track. The low number is based on the proportion of users who pay for Pandora.

Pink Floyd and Radiohead blast new copyright collection plan

The European Commission proposed a law on Wednesday to pave the way for easier digital distribution. Prominent musicians, however, immediately slammed the proposal, saying it fails to fix problems of inefficiency and embezzlement.

PixelFish Picks Up Eyespot

Video production company PixelFish announced today that it has acquired recently-shut down online video editing/white-label video company Eyespot. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Founded and angel-funded in 2006, the Torrance, Calif.-based PixelFish has 15 employees and is similar to TurnHere, offering to create low-cost video promotions for small and medium-sized businesses that can be distributed to outlets like Yellowbook.

PixelFish VP of Sales and Marketing Stephen Condon told us in a phone interview that assets like Eyespot’s Mixer tool will allow clients to edit video on their own, doing things like swapping out voiceovers. The acquisition also gives PixelFish access to video publishing and transcoding tools, as well as a number of provisional patents for online video technologies.

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Weekend Vid Picks: Radiohead’s In Rainbows Video Winners

Radiohead, you’ll remember, injected some style into the world of user-generated music video contests last spring when it partnered with Aniboom to search for an animation worthy of representing one of the tracks from its album, In Rainbows. The contest process, which narrowed concepts down starting at the storyboard stage, ended up generating not one, but four, winners — each highly unique.

The first to be completed, Clement Picon’s video for Reckoner, is all about growth, expansion, destruction and rebirth — it’s a highly conceptual but deeply intense work.

Radiohead – Reckoner – by Clement Picon

The other three are still in production, but there are extended test clips available at Aniboom that showcase the variety of style users brought to the contest. Read More about Weekend Vid Picks: Radiohead’s In Rainbows Video Winners

Tipjoy’s Founders on Passing the Hat


Ivan and Abby Kirigin founded their startup, Tipjoy, to give consumers of free content a new way to pay for the stuff they really like: by leaving a tip. While the idea sounds simple enough, what the Kirigins want to do is actually far more ambitious than their quaint company name suggests. With Tipjoy they aim to exploit the commercial power of micropayments, a hip, Long Tail business concept in which consumers pay for things in tiny increments.

Until now, micropayment systems have proven most useful for philanthropy. No more, say the Kirigins. The couple (they are married) believes Tipjoy’s version of micropayments, which involves consumers paying for products in increments as small as 10 cents, but paying — and here is their innovation — voluntarily, is powerful enough to help Tipjoy become the next PayPal.

The Kirigins developed Tipjoy’s model as participants in Y Combinator’s winter 2008 startup class. Below the couple shares some lessons learned through YC’s collective iteration process. Read More about Tipjoy’s Founders on Passing the Hat