Thom Yorke makes over $24 million on BitTorrent?

Tomorrow's Modern Boxes

Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

It has been claimed Thom Yorke made over $24 million on BitTorrent during 2014 on downloads of his latest album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. 4.4 million downloads of a digital bundle, album plus video, $6 a download.

To put the figures in context, Frozen soundtrack has sold 3.46 million copies and is considered the highest selling album of 2014. A quarter of downloads were in the first week, as much as One Direction 2013 album, Midnight Memories.

An article in the Independent screams bullshit, though the only bullshit is the Indy article.

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

The article in the Independent reads as a regurgitation of a press release from Big Record Labels.

The implication being, he should have stuck to a Big Record Label, or worse enter the sewer that is spotify.

Big Record Labels are dead, but mass media regurgitates their bullshit.

That Big Record Labels are dead, does not mean music is dead, what it does mean is more opportunities for more musicians, a better sharing of the cake, more money going to musicians.

There appears to be no dispute of the download figures. What we do not know, is the mechanism behind those download figures.

Let us assume the download of 4.4 million is correct, and $6 a copy is correct.

Most artists would be happy with 100,000 downloads, let alone a million.

If a CD, Big Record Label, he would be lucky to see 10%, less any advances, less studio, publicity promotion etc. $2.64 million.

Had he released on bandcamp, they would have taken their cut of 10%. This would have given him a cool $23.76, not to be sniffed at.

The 10:1 ratio in favour of the record label, is reversed in favour of the artist with bandcamp.

Not only that, he gets all the data, fans can listen on-line, share with their friends, leading to more sales.

Selling Right Now: Monsters sold for £25, £20 over the asking price.

Monsters EP, sold for £20 more than asking price

What this shows, is that fans, be it through BitTorrent or bandcamp, are willing to pay for music, are willing to support artists.

On bandcamp they often pay more than the asking price. What they are no longer prepared to put up with is being ripped off by Big Record Labels.

I have spent some time talking with artists, including big names, and they do not know what is available. And worse still, no one is going to tell them, not their agents, not their record labels, as all are taking too big a cut.

When the Big Record Label, offers big upfront payments, the naive think great, are we not doing well. Then into the recording studios, no expense spared, overpaid producer, more hangers on. What they fail to appreciate, it is not the record label paying, it is they, it all comes out of future earnings. Net result, at the end of the day, they are left penniless, all their money has been spent on their behalf.

Read Rock and Roll is Dead. Incredibly badly written, but wonderful from the viewpoint of the insider.

And if you think it cannot get any worse, welcome to The 360 Deal. The Big Record label offers to do everything, management, concerts, merchandising.

If you have the money, pay for studio, recording engineers etc. And if you lack the money, play a few gigs, crowd fund.

Examples of musicians who have done it themselves, Jewelia with Monsters, Carrie Tree with The Kitchen Table.

iTunes does not simply rip artists off with the cut it takes, it charges for being there. And what do you get, a few seconds lofi sample, iTunes gets all the data. Similar deal with Amazon. Similar deal with CDBaby. And do not even think of going down the sewer that is spotify.

Bandcamp takes between 10 and 15 percent, it used to be a straight 13%. Can listen to entire album in reasonable quality mp3 128, can download high quality audio including non-lossy compression FLAC, actively encourages sharing, and the artist gets the data.

The underlying problem as ever, is corporate greed.

Bandcamp by contrast was established to provide a service for artists, if they make money, bandcamp makes money.

The one thing artists should not try to do, is install own media players, on-line shops. Whenever I have seen this done, it is a disaster. Be prepared to pay a small fee for a site like bandcamp to do a far better and more professional job, and focus on what you are good at, creating music.

If they need a record label, try Any And All Records. It offers nothing and expects nothing in return.

The onus on all of us, is when we see artists using iTunes, Amazon, spotify, ask why, challenge them, tell them there are alternatives like bandcamp that offer a much better deal for everyone. And encourage them to move.

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