You probably heard that Bruno Mars and Rihanna were the most pirated artists of 2013, which third-party analysts gleaned from taking a look at BitTorrent downloads. But not so fast: BitTorrent says its more legit offerings saw significantly more downloads than Mars or Rihanna. Surprisingly, Moby's Innocents bundle of singles and videos was downloaded 9 million times last year, well over the nearly 5.8 million illegal downloads of Bruno Mars's albums and tracks.
BitTorrent points to Moby's success as evidence that its Bundle program is shunting piracy aside, that users are hungry for free content but are also willing to pay for more. About 130,000 users clicked through from Moby's bundle to iTunes to purchase his album. More than 400,000 people signed up for the singer's email list. If BitTorrent can fine-tune its discovery tools and grow those numbers, Bundles could become a major distribution path for artists.
BitTorrent launched Bundles as a way for creative types to turn a piece of content into a storefront, a direct response to commonly held ideas about the company and what it does. A free bundle can include anything--songs from an upcoming album, excerpts from a book, music videos, whatever an artist wants to distribute. The bundle exists to entice BitTorrent users to want more and click through to buy some of the artist's work. Some 60 million Bundles have been downloaded since the alpha project launched in May, enough for the tech company to build out Bundles with a slew of new features this year.
A whole new world
A Bundle's end mission, the company said, is to help artists go viral.
"Viral content works differently from static content," BitTorrent marketing head Matt Mason said in a company blog post on Thursday. "Viral content is by definition content in motion. It has to travel. If your storefront, ad model, and social strategy isn't embedded into your file, you're missing a revenue opportunity."
Exhibit A: Beyonce. Queen Bey didn't use BitTorrent to market her new album, but she did recognize that music needs to be distributed and promoted in a radically different way. That's what BitTorrent is trying to do.
BitTorrent is pleased with its efforts to legitimize free content distribution, and presumably, so are the artists the company has distributed bundles for in the last 8 months. Lady Gaga, Madonna, Public Enemy, and the Pixies are a few of the high-profile musicians who have used BitTorrent to promote their newest projects. More than 8,000 artists have signed up to publish and distribute their content on Bundle since September.
But there's more to come.
"This year, we're introducing Bundle pay gates, social gates, artist analytics tools, and more--because there is no longer one business model for digital content," Mason said. "There's a different model for each piece of digital content."
Get a free taste, then pay for more. This is the future.