In May 2013, we introduced an Alpha experiment in digital publishing. As of today, we’ve delivered more than one hundred million Bundles to fans.
The past year in content has been headlined by hashtags. #NewRules. #NoRules. The stealth social album drop. The no-strategy-strategy. This is the promise of the Internet: unprecedented fan connection, free creative license.
Except that a close read finds that the open window on artistic expression is closing. Of the 7,500 films made in 2014, only 100 will ever be seen. Netflix took down 1,800 titles in 2013, and another 470 in January. Things look pretty dire, even if you’re in a position to have your content played. They’re worse if you’re looking to get paid. Youtube, the world’s largest streaming platform, offers artists $1,750 in exchange for a million streams. When you get down to it, these are the #NewRules. They’re not sustainable.
What if media can become more valuable each time it’s shared?
Last year, we kicked off an Alpha experiment in digital publishing called BitTorrent Bundle. It’s a platform and file format that’s designed to work the way the Internet does: content becomes more valuable, each time it’s shared.
Since May 2013, we’ve worked with some of the world’s most amazing artists. Moby. Madonna. Cut/Copy. De La Soul. Diplo. Death Grips. Werner Herzog. Hundred Waters. Lee Scratch Perry. Lucy Walker. Joshua Oppenheimer. Gabe Polsky. Public Enemy. Amanda Palmer. We’ve made mixtapes. We’ve mixed new EPs. We’ve mapped live shows. We’ve 3D printed film. We’ve gotten past censors. We’ve beaten some of our own odds. And along the way, our Alpha experiment has grown, and grown up.
BitTorrent Bundle by the numbers.
Today, 24 hours in BitTorrent Bundle equals over 554K impressions, 167K downloads, and more than 16K streams.
Monthly Bundle site visitors have increased from 2.1 million, to 25 million (+1,095%). 25% of visitors share the content with their network across some social channel. And fans are coming back, over and over again. 75% of Bundles site traffic is coming from returning users.
Over the course of the past year, we’ve added a publisher stats portal — one that’s owned by artists, not advertisers. We’ve added search and tagging to help fan discovery.
And we’ve also updated Bundle to make it more flexible for artists. You can now embed Bundles on any website or blog. You can also just click play. More than 10% of all Bundles are now streamed.
What 100 million downloads looks like, and other true stories from behind BitTorrent Bundle:
On G-Eazy, and the one-hundred millionth download.
On June 5th, Oakland-based rapper G-Eazy gave back to fans by making his entire back catalog — three albums, remixes, b-sides, a curated photo and poster set — available for download. One place. One digital box set. One million plays. And after six days, the one-hundred-millionth BitTorrent Bundle download. #TheseThingsHappen.
An entire music festival, inside a single file.
The Mad Decent Block Party started out in Philadelphia as a street thing; a day for friends to hang out and see shows. Today, the block party travels to cities across the US. It stands as one of the last few festival days where live music belongs to everyone.
The feeling of being there: it’s hard to explain over a single music stream. Add fifteen tracks. Add five videos. Add an interactive art gallery. This is the people’s music fest, Bundled up, and distributed to the people of the Internet. More than a million people tuned in.
A record store scavenger hunt, hidden in a Bundle.
De La Soul defined hip hop, and cut-n-paste culture, for a generation. They wrote the oral history of the digital age before the digital age. And as such, their work has been a challenge to distribute. Part of the Library of Congress, but not part of iTunes. Classic De La Soul sounds like nothing else. It was possible that we’d never hear it again, online. An attempt to release their entire back catalog as a Dropbox download ended in a traffic takedown.
We worked with De La Soul to reset these limits; releasing their March mixtape celebrating the legacy of J Dilla, Smell the Da.I.S.Y., as a BitTorrent Bundle. It’s still being downloaded — without a single outage. For a new generation of listeners, the work of De La Soul and J Dilla is always on, and always online, and always preserved. And its second life is more than digital.
As a thank you to BitTorrent fans, Bundle De La Soul released the Smell the Da.I.S.Y. instrumentals as a limited edition vinyl, hidden in record stores around the world. Da.I.S.Y. downloaders got the first clues. And 48 hours of crate digging later, all records were discovered.
An Oscar-nominated film finds 4.5 million new supporters.
In 2014, we partnered with Drafthouse Films to preserve a nation’s history: the artifacts and interviews behind the Oscar-nominated documentary, The Act of Killing. Our goal was to make a global audience aware of Indonesia’s hidden history of genocide. More than 4.5 million viewers around the world downloaded the film. And our goal was to get The Act of Killing back in to Indonesia. The film Bundle beat censors; receiving 45 thousand views in Indonesia, where it’s currently banned.
A snowboarding doc sparks an activist movement.
In 2014, all eyes were on the Olympics. But there’s a part of the event that we don’t usually see: its human cost; the strain sports marketing puts on athletes. Lucy Walker’s extraordinary documentary, The Crash Reel, tells the true story of pro snowboarder Kevin Pearce’s post-injury life. In partnership with the filmmakers, we used BitTorrent Bundle to launch a campaign for helmet safety. 3.4 million people tuned in, generating 56K new helmet safety subscribers and supporters.
The infinite Internet lives of Lee “Scratch” Perry.
Filmmakers Ethan Higbee and Adam Bhala Lough spent seven years documenting the strange world of Lee Scratch Perry; and another three self-distributing The Upsetter to over 80 theaters across the globe. And another three years later, they created a post-theatrical life for the doc: commissioning new tracks, and distributing it to music fans inside BitTorrent. The Bundle was downloaded and streamed over 500K times, leading to 14 news stories in top music blogs. It goes without saying, almost, that L$P lives forever.
An album you can projection map.
Beats Antique is an Oakland-based collective known for their gypsy / glitch / electro / (insert mad adjectives here) sound. And also: their live shows. In partnership with the group, we created a BitTorrent Bundle containing their album, A Thousand Faces: Act 2 — and everything you’d need to stage your own Beats Antique show at home, including the band’s projection mapping kit. 548 thousand downloads. And the potential for 548 thousand live shows to pop up in your neighborhood, and around the world.
And BTW, the most downloaded 3D print file on the Internet is a music video.
You can 3D print a home. A heart. An Aston Martin DB4. The physical world around us can be reduced to a set of files; endlessly replicable. What about the intangibles, then? Can a song be something that’s felt — heard, seen, and touched?
That’s the question at the heart of Cut/Copy’s music video for “We Are Explorers”; the world’s first 3D printed film. The answer is yes. With 2,639,611 downloads, the 3D print Bundle for “We Are Explorers” is the most downloaded 3D print file set on the Internet. So much for a song being only something you hear.
And on to the next one and one hundred million downloads.
We’re idealists here. But we believe in technology as a form of connection; not control. That analog business models shouldn’t be a barrier to culture kept in common. That bandwidth should never be a barrier to creativity. In the days after Net Neutrality, those sound like radical statements. The fact of the matter is that they’re not.
Decentralized technologies like BitTorrent can unblock the connection between artists and fans; stripping away the need to censor or sizecap creativity. Today we stand with over ten thousand publishers who together have proved this, a hundred million times over.
Got ideas for the next BitTorrent Bundle? You can sign up below!