Thom Yorke used the expertise of Oxford MBA students to mastermind the release of his latest album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, on BitTorrent. The Oxford native, and Radiohead frontman, consulted with students Ryan Kroening, Phil Barry and Steven Lundy on “user experience, media strategy and financial analysis” when planning the unique release, which aimed to eliminate the need for a record label.
The collaboration began when the three students, all self-professed music fans, were looking for a project to carry out for their Strategic Consulting Project (SCP). Whilst most MBA students at the Said Business School work for designated companies, Kroening, Barry and Lundy decided on a unique approach by helping to assist in the release of Thom Yorke’s latest work.
Phil Barry explained to Cherwell, “We sent a message to Courtyard Management [Radiohead’s management company] entitled ‘MBAs offering brainpower’, which we think piqued their interest a bit”.
Courtyard Management were full of praise for the students, saying, “It was immensely useful to have the input of the MBA students on data analysis and new marketing strategies. They produced a thorough and insightful document.’’
Likewise, the students were enthused by working with Yorke, with Barry commenting, “Everything is driven by the music for Radiohead — our role was to adapt the business model around the music.”
This is not the first time Yorke has attempted to innovate in the way he releases his music. The 2007 Radiohead album In Rainbows was released using a ‘pay-as-you-want’ method, whereby users could order the album for any amount they wanted, including nothing.
In announcing the latest album, Yorke said that the release was an “effective way of handing some control of internet commerce back to people who are creating the work”.
Said Business School also released a statement praising the innovation of the students, saying, “The MBA students were able to put their learning into practice on the project, analysing fan and market data, and bringing together new technologies to generate new ideas challenging conventional content distribution mechanisms.”
The £3.75 charged for Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is understood to be split 90%/10% between Yorke and BitTorrent, giving the method a clear advantage over standard label releases.
Yorke’s approach has been met with favourable reviews from the student body, with Alexi Andriopoulos, a PPEist at Univ commenting, ‘‘I think more music should be released like this because it’s the only sure-fire way of ensuring that the artists who create the music get their fair share of the profits. It could encourage more talented musicians to enter the industry who previously were concerned about the ability to make money in music.”
Yorke’s strategy appears to have been a success. Whilst BitTorrent have not released a specific figure, they have disclosed that there have been in excess of one million downloads of Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes.
Although the reaction has been positive, some students noticed the irony that BitTorrent is banned at some Oxford colleges, with one student commenting, “They could have at least chosen a platform all Oxford students have access to.”