There comes a time in every Internet pirate’s life when he or she considers hanging up the seedy behavior and growing up into a legitimate downloader. BitTorrent, once an inadvertent conduit of illegal downloads, has announced it’s allowing any and all users to use its premium pay gate: BitTorrent Bundle. The service is the evolution of a bundling platform BitTorrent launched last year, but is finally open to everyone.
In June 2013, BitTorrent began allowing some artists and groups the ability to distribute free links to content in packaged bundles only accessed by fans providing their email addresses. Radiohead’s Thom Yorke’s sophomore solo album Tomorrow’s New Boxes, released in late September, was the first paid-for bundle with its asking price set at $6 for the collection of eight songs and music video. The album has been downloaded 4.4 million times in the last two months. For comparison, it took 11 months and the ungodly entity that is Taylor Swift to provide 2014’s first platinum selling album.
BitTorrent Bundle users receive 90 percent of the sales revenues and will have the power to choose which content is behind the paywall and at what time. BitTorrent’s chief content officer Matt Mason said BitTorrent’s aim is to give control of the value of art back to the artist. He even used the recent ideological debate over music valuation waged by Taylor Swift against Spotify as a framework for the recent news: “Taylor Swift sparked debate over the state of music in recent weeks; the value of a stream, the value of a record. The value of art shouldn’t be up for debate. It should be up to artists.”
While BitTorrent’s technology has been used to allow illegal file sharing, the company has made concerted efforts in recent years to rid itself of the scarlet I(illegal). A month after announcing the BitTorrent Bundle, Mason released a blog post on the company’s official site declaring that “piracy happens outside the BitTorrent ecosystem.” However, its full-scale adoption by measurement companies such as Billboard and Nielsen is not likely in any foreseeable future due to the vague statistics it gives out. While Thom Yorke’s latest album was downloaded 4.4 million times, Straith Schreder, director of content strategy for BitTorrent states that the release of sales data of bundles is a decision left to the artists.
Popular DJ Diplo has re-released his 2004 debut album F10rida as the first open BitTorrent Bundle. The bundle will include the album’s original 11 tracks as well as curated art, which include 13-year-old emails, original album art, and song stems (different layers and beats from his songs). The bundle is priced at $5, with the artwork and a previously unreleased song Big Lost (Eprom Remix) available for free download.