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Radiohead BitTorrent Experiment Successful
August 4, 2008
Thomas Mennecke
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Remember back in October when Radiohead distributed their new “In Rainbows” album with BitTorrent technology? It wasn't exactly free, although the end user was invited to pay as much, or as little, as they wanted. Radiohead dedicated a website and tracker to the effort, hoping to preempt its distribution by more nefarious means. The physical album later went on to become a number one selling album in both the United States and United Kingdom.

So the big question about the Radiohead BitTorrent experiment is, did it draw users away from the likes of The Pirate Bay and MiniNova? Is "legal free" possible in an "unauthorized free" world?

Big Champagne, who has for the better part of the last decade collected statistics on the growth of the P2P community, set out to answer these questions. In a five page study, Big Champagne pored over economic theories, gauged the volume of downloads, and burned the candle from both ends. The conclusion: maybe.

What Big Champagne did manage to discover conclusively was that the "In Rainbow" torrent was wildly popular during the experiment. According to the study, the "In Rainbows" torrent was downloaded over 2.3 million times between October 10th and November 3rd. In its first day of release, the torrent was downloaded over 400,000 times. Estimating the volume of "In Rainbows" trading was the easy part. Unfortunately, applying this to Radiohead's experiment is difficult, since the band has not released the album's sales statistics. In other words, did those 2.3 million torrent downloads come from Radiohead, The Pirate Bay, or the dozens of other torrent sites?

Big Champagne readily admits there's no definable method in determining the experiment's success - at least in the traditional way of reasoning. What Big Champagne did manage to discover was the release of "In Rainbows" caused a surge in BitTorrent activity during the initial release - much more so than other big artists such as Gnarles Barkley or Panic at the Disco, who saw about 150,000 torrent downloads during one week's time. That is in stark contrast to the 400,000 Radiohead downloads in one day.

Success is a funny word, and in this circumstance, a matter of perspective. What defines success may not be apparent, and the implications of such may have far reaching consequences. In other words, the "In Rainbow" experiment appears to have helped reach Radiohead's minimal expectations - it helped spread awareness of the new album and attracted attention. It may have also helped pad Radiohead's coffers. But the success didn't stop there, and it appears the experiment may have benefited just about every BitTorrent user, tracker, and indexing site with new users and traffic.

This story is filed in these Slyck News categories
BitTorrent :: Trackers/Indexers

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