You may have noticed a number of articles in the media recently speculating about the people who were involved in Thom Yorke’s BitTorrent experiment. My ‘real’ name has come up in one or two of these articles, so…
If you’ve been following Mr Fogg for a while you will know that I have always been curious about new ways of doing things.
Like many musicians, one of the things I have spent a lot of time thinking about over the last few years is the massive impact that digital technology has had on the incomes of musicians, labels and publishers. I have no intention of rehearsing arguments that you have heard elsewhere, but one of the great frustrations for an independent artist is the lack of influence that you have over deals made higher up the food chain.
A couple of years ago I made the decision to try and do something about this instead of just shouting from the sidelines. My first step was to learn more about the world of business, which I did by applying for the MBA program at Oxford University. Starting in September 2013, I spent an amazing twelve months learning mind-bending concepts from finance, economics and strategy and mixing with people who couldn’t be further removed from the world of Mr Fogg – investment bankers, management consultants, accountants, social entrepreneurs and even a NASA flight controller.
My first chance to see whether I could apply any of this to digital music came in February this year when I was asked to work on an extremely secretive project for Thom Yorke: the first commercial release of an album via BitTorrent. I have been a huge Radiohead fan ever since I heard Karma Police on the school bus in 1997 and had written to the band’s management “offering brainpower”. I ended up spending four months working on user experience, media strategy and economic analysis for the BitTorrent concept. You may know that the album – called “Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes” – was eventually released on September 26th and has seen almost five million downloads.
Working on Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes was an amazing experience, not just for the pure adrenaline rush of being on the inside of such a big musical event but also because it really rammed home for me that the opportunities to exploit digital technology for the benefit of musicians and labels go far beyond downloads and streaming. Both are crucial parts of the mix, but I am now full of new ideas about what else might be possible. The next step is trying to turn those ideas into reality.