BitTorrent isn’t the first name most people think of when it comes to helping musicians make more money, but that may soon change.

BitTorrent, the company responsible for creating the popular P2P file transfer protocol, today is rolling out its first “pay gate” bundle, a new package of digital media it hopes music fans will be willing to pay for. These bundles give fans a portion of content for free, while offering them the remaining portion for a fee or in exchange for personal information.

The first of these paid bundles comes from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, who turned to BitTorrent to sell his latest album, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. The pay gate allows Yorke fans to grab a single from the album as well as a music video for free. But to get the full album, they’ll need to pony up $6, which is reasonable when you consider most albums cost about $10 or more when purchased through digital sellers like iTunes.

“It’s an experiment to see if the mechanics of the system are something that the general public can get its head around,” said Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich in a statement about the pay gate. “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.”

Yorke is well known for calling out leading digital music services like Spotify because of the relatively low amount of licensing fees they offer to music artists. Unlike licensing or other digital sellers, artists and publishers have far more control over BitTorrent’s pay gates, which means creators will theoretically be able to plot their own successes and failures when it comes to the business of music.

BitTorrent, for its part, takes a 10 percent cut of each pay gate bundle transaction, while artists are responsible for handling and promoting sales. It’s an interesting move and one that BitTorrent has been planning for well over a year. It’ll be interesting to see if Yorke is able to drum up enough attention to make pay gates a success. But I doubt he’ll be the only artist to use them going forward.


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