BitTorrent, Inc., the company behind the file-sharing protocol used by controversial sites like the Pirate Bay, is experimenting with a new way to provide free music and pay artists at the same time.
BitTorrent is working with artists to offer exclusive “bundles” of music for free download, along with “relevant software” from BitTorrent’s advertising partners. Whenever someone installs a bundled app, the artist gets a share of the revenue. It’s being billed as the first-ever attempt at monetizing a torrent file.
And if that’s not surprising enough, the first artist to participate in this experiment is DJ Shadow, who has been famously outspoken about the Internet’s negative effect on the music business and vehemently opposed to giving his music away for free.
Shadow, real name Josh Davis, told Wired last September that the Internet had “decimated” the music industry.
“The internet was supposed to democratize communication, but the opposite seems to have happened,” he said.
A year later, Shadow has joined forces with the company behind a protocol that has allowed thousands of people to download his music free of charge.
Three tracks from his upcoming collection, Total Breakdown: Hidden Transmissions From The MPC Era (1992-1996), are now available for download from BitTorrent, along with exclusive photos and footage from his earlier years.
Although the partnership suggests DJ Shadow may have had a change of heart about the Internet—and about free music—one of his collaborators on the project told the Daily Dot that’s not the case.
“I wouldn’t say [Shadow] is anti-Internet,” said Michael Fiebach, founder of Fame House, the digital marketing team that helped broker the deal between Shadow and BitTorrent.
“I’ve been working with him since 2006. He’s always been a leader in the ways he uses the Internet for his business. He was one of the first artists to have an autonomous online store operation. He was the first artist to license digital music back from the major labels he's under contract with to sell direct to fans. And now he's the first artist to monetize a torrent.”
Although he pointed out that he doesn’t speak for Shadow, Fiebach said that what the DJ has always been against is “illegal use of his content on the Internet.”
“He values what he makes, and he thinks he should dictate whether or not it’s being given away for free, not some Joe Schmoe with a laptop.”
But if enough Joe Schmoes with laptops download DJ Shadow’s legal BitTorrent release, the artist stands to make a profit, although the experiment may pay off in promotion for the full release of Total Breakdown rather than in cold, hard cash. Fiebach suggested Shadow’s take will look more like the royalties for Spotify plays than the larger paydays offered by iTunes downloads and CD sales.
BitTorrent also stands to gain from the partnership. The company has been experimenting with ways to promote artists over the past few years, and this is another step toward making the BitTorrent name less synonymous with piracy.
“This is a really good story for them to tell, and it makes them look more legitimate,” Fiebach said, “But it’s a big win for Shadow, too … Whether or not it ends up making a ton of money, it’s a win as a story before anything else.”
BitTorrent plans to launch similar experiments with other artists in the coming months, including some signed to major labels.
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