Ever the groundbreaking artiste, Radiohead’s frontman Thom Yorke put his own spin on the Beyonce classic and released a surprise album on Friday. Unlike Queen B, he did it through file sharing, testing out a new means for musicians to generate revenue, avoiding (most of) the industry middlemen.

Thom Yorke
The album is an experiment in cutting out the middleman.

So the music will sound familiar, especially to Radiohead fans, but Yorke chose to sell it through – for real – BitTorrent. The idea of selling and, more importantly, buying something through the torrent client sounds very very foreign, given that the main idea behind its existence is to, how do I put this, not pay for stuff.  

The album bears the title Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes and it will sell for $6, which is less than the usual album price. Presumably, that’ll ease the transition for BitTorrent users.

Upon releasing the album onto the unsuspecting BT crowd, Yorke posted the following tweet: ““I am trying something new, don’t know how it will go.”

He also posted a longer message, detailing his hope that BitTorrent distribution will provide a way for artists to bypass the “self-elected gatekeepers” and sell their own music, thus hopefully boosting their royalties. “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,” he said.

But Yorke admitted he was unsure the public will “get its head around” the idea. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes isn’t available on iTunes, so all of its sales depend on people getting around to the BitTorrent idea.

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Together, Radiohead have conducted several experiments like this, including their last album, The King of Limbs, which was self-released and available to download on the band’s website before it went on general sale.

In 2007, Radiohead let customers name their own price when downloading In Rainbows. A study later found that, while many fans paid, more people downloaded it — for free — on BitTorrent than from the band’s website.