Surprise! Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke releases new album completely out of the blue

"Tomorrow's Modern Boxes" is out via BitTorrent

Published September 26, 2014 6:00PM (EDT)

Thom Yorke, sex symbol?
Thom Yorke, sex symbol?

Radiohead's Thom Yorke released a surprise album, "Tomorrow's Modern Boxes," today via BitTorrent.

Last week, Yorke sparked a flurry of Internet rumors after he and the music artists, Nigel Godrich -- a frequent collaborator, and Radiohead producer -- posted images of white vinyl on Tumblr.

In a letter Yorke and Godrich, explained why they selected BitTorrent -- the peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol that does not rely on a single server:

"As an experiment we are using a new version of BitTorrent to distribute a new Thom Yorke record.

The new Torrent files have a pay gate to access a bundle of files..

The files can be anything, but in this case is an 'album'.

It’s an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around ...

If it works well it could be an effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work.

Enabling those people who make either music, video or any other kind of digital content to sell it themselves.

Bypassing the self elected gate-keepers.

If it works anyone can do this exactly as we have done.

The torrent mechanism does not require any server uploading or hosting costs or ‘cloud’ malarkey.

It's a self-contained embeddable shop front...

The network not only carries the traffic, it also hosts the file. The file is in the network.

Oh yes and it's called

Tomorrow's Modern Boxes.

Thom Yorke & Nigel Godrich"

This method of selling and sharing and album -- if it proves successful -- could help other artists monetize their work. However, the process of actually making the album available through a BitTorrent bundle was far more complex. The Los Angeles Times explains:

"The Bundle for 'Tomorrow's Modern Boxes' is the first with a gate that collects a payment. Matt Mason, BitTorrent's chief content officer, said "paygates" took this long to develop because "we're not building a Web-based experience that's only going to work in North America." It's easy to add a storefront to a website, Mason said; it's much harder to create a transferable one that works wherever someone might be using BitTorrent."

This is not the first time that Thom Yorke has used an unconventional, or even risky, method of releasing music. For Radiohead's "In Rainbows," buyers named their price, and for "The King of Limbs" the special box set, complete with a multitude of artwork, also came out in conjunction with Radiohead newspapers.

The album can be downloaded here, via the media below or is available on vinyl.

And if all goes to plan Matt Mason told the Los Angeles Times that the BitTorrent Bundle is "a real product ready to go for everybody else in the world the next day."

h/t Pitchfork

By Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

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