BitTorrent Taps Public Enemy For Their Latest Creative Venture: Crowdsourced Music

BitTorrent, the content distribution network that has been angling for a position as the platform of choice for the creative industries, is today taking one more step to show artists how they can use the service to engage with their fans and potentially spin some business in the process. The company is teaming up with Public Enemy, the iconic hip hop band, for a project in which the group will use the BitTorrent platform not only to market and distribute some of their latest music to the site’s 170 million monthly users, but also give those users a chance to then create their own track sampling Public Enemy’s music. The band will then pick the track they like best to produce it properly and subsequently distribute it.

Gary “G-Wiz” Rinaldo, manager to Public Enemy frontman Chuck D and himself a longtime record producer who has worked with Public Enemy, Aerosmith, Run-DMC and others, says that when the band was thinking about where to go online to promote the band and its latest track, “Get Up Stand Up”, BitTorrent was a natural choice because of the charging models and the fact that it’s the only platform that couples that with ways of consuming very large media files.

Pointedly, services like Spotify, while great for general consumers, are not always the best way in some music genres, like hip hop, which are big on borrowing and sampling from others. This poses a challenge in the digital world:

“Streaming is great but we believe in retaining files too,” he tells TechCrunch. “As more and more fans are herded into accessing media but never retaining it, it is important in many cases for fans to have access to the files they have gotten the right to download. [And] it is the best case scenario when doing a remix. Having an acapella is good, have the ability to access more of the music is great, the full multitrack is usually not an option, we wanted to make it an option for this remix.

The project — where getting a track produced and distributed is the top prize; others include equipment and PE merchandise — is the latest chapter in how BitTorrent is trying to use a couple of new products to build out the usefulness of their platform. The aim is to go beyond being — to borrow a phrase from the world of legacy media — a simple “dumb pipe.”

In this case it’s the BitTorrent Bundle — its term for multimedia content packages — and its social distribution service SoShare. The Bundle has been used by authors like Tim Ferriss, a number of music acts, as well as films. (One recent film bundle created with Cinedine generated 2.7 million downloads, BitTorrent says.) Arugably, Public Enemy is the most mainstream yet although the site is working with “all the major labels,” says Matt Mason, VP of marketing at BitTorrent. One sweetener is that the site claims a 30% conversion rate on its bundles — meaning that of all the people who visit the page with the goods, one-third will go through the actions — email address entering, typically, these days — to download further content.

Currently in alpha mode, when the Bundle launches more widely later this year the intention will be to offer users the ability to incorporate different charging models (or no models). Mason says that one feature down the road will also be to introduce an API so that users can embed the Bundles on sites outside of BitTorrent itself. It’s all a part of how, if iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Walmart are the new mass-market music stores online, BitTorrent wants to be the “independent music shop,” known for how they allow for multiple options for paying for goods. “That’s the spirit we want to bring online.”

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