If you haven’t been paying attention to BitTorrent over the last few years and still equate the company with piracy, its plan to become a legitimate media company may come as a surprise. But BitTorrent, the company behind the peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol of the same name, just launched a streaming app that has already won over artists, musicians, and filmmakers. The app is available today on Android and coming soon to iOS and Apple TV.
BitTorrent Now emphasizes emerging artists, so content discovery is a high priority for the company. I’ve never heard of most indie bands from Brooklyn (despite living in Brooklyn), so how will I know which ones to listen to? BitTorrent has a team curating recommended projects inside the app, and there will also be a trending tab to see what’s popular with other BitTorrent users and on social media. You can follow your favorite artists, shuffle play genres of songs, create playlists, and sync all your content across your devices. Basically, it functions similarly to the other streaming apps you know and use daily.
Except it’s radically different.
The new app isn’t just for streaming. It’s also a publishing platform.
How BitTorrent became an artist’s best friend
BitTorrent Now is actually a distribution platform for any artist to share their work any way they want. Anyone can submit content for publication and choose how it’s distributed. Musicians just breaking onto the scene can set up email gates so people have to submit their addresses to access songs. More established artists can sell their work. And BitTorrent is introducing an ad-supported model that puts pre-roll ads in front of videos. Artists take a cut from each model: a 90/10 percent split in their favor from direct sales and a 70/30 percent split for ad revenue.
The ad-supported model is new territory for BitTorrent, so the company is piloting the program with about a dozen partners to test the waters. Artist/rapper/visionary Yung Jake, singer Kerli, indie film company Oscilloscope Labs, and director Adam Bhala Lough are among the creators who have signed up to test the ad-supported model with songs, albums, movies, and artwork.
“From the beginning, it was about options, not rules, when it comes to your business model,” Straith Schreder, BitTorrent’s vice president of creative initiatives, told me. “Ads, direct sales, subscriptions: we want creators to pick whatever business model. We’re rolling it out as a pilot because we want to learn how to create truly great experiences for fans. I think for fans, the options and not rules, the agency thing, applies to them as well. If you want to buy something and not see ads, that’s fine. Creators don’t have to participate in this program.”
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