Interview: BitTorrent’s Matt Mason Explains Thom Yorke Album Partnership


Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke dropped a happy surprise on fans Friday morning with the arrival of a completed new solo album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, along with an accompanying music video and album art. Along with producer and Atoms For Peace bandmate Nigel Godrich, Yorke explained that the album, which fans can download immediately for $6, will be distributed via torrent service BitTorrent in a bit of an experiment to see how the general public can handle the modern download designs.

Crave contacted BitTorrent’s Chief Content Officer Matt Mason to discuss how the partnership came to be. Read our exclusive interview below.

“We started talking to Thom and Nigel Godrich, Radiohead’s producer, in December of last year, just about the future of the internet and how we thought it should be for artists,” Mason explained. “More conversations followed that eventually led to us and them deciding they should be the first pay-gated bundle.  

coverWith the release, Yoke explained that this new approach is an experiment to test the waters of the public’s ability to digest the next evolutionary step of media consumption, effectively “bypassing the self elected gate-keepers.” Mason agrees, finding new frontiers on both the consumer and provider ends.

“I think the product is easier to use now than it’s ever been,” he explained. “And from BitTorrent the company’s point of view, the introduction of bundles to our product line over the last year has been new to us.  We’ve had to put a lot more effort into making products that make it easy for consumers to stream and buy stuff using torrent technology the way they use the rest of the internet, so it’s definitely the right time.  Guys like Thom don’t release albums with you if the product isn’t there.  And we’re really, really glad they did.”

Additionally, there’s an open sky of opportunity for what the service can provide, rendering old media limitations nonexistent. When asked how the new paygate initiative impacting the way artistic commerce takes place, Mason sees endless possibilities. 

“I think what’s nice about a bundle is you can literally put any file of any size or shape into a bundle and then you can decide where the gate lives and what the cost should be to go through that gate,” he said. “What Thom released today was a very traditional album, but you could put any mixed media into a bundle. There aren’t any limits creatively on the bundle and that’s what we’re most excited about.”

As for stemming the tide of downloads through a convenient-morality approach among those who would otherwise obtain the product for free, Mason also sees promise in the ease of delivery.

“Yeah, this is one of the things we’re seeing today,” he confirmed to Crave. “Inevitably this album is up on piracy sites, and that’s something that’s completely outside our control. But right next to the illegal download is the legal link to pay for the album.  It’s available everywhere that you can access content – including torrent sites. If you can get stuff legally right from the same place you get it illegally there’s never an excuse not to pay for it.”

Listen to Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes below, and order the album at BitTorrent.