It’s been a big year for BitTorrent, said Matt Mason, the company’s executive director of marketing. Mason and his team have been working with big names like DJ Shadow and Tim Ferriss to figure out how to turn file sharing into a source of revenue.
“We don’t want to dictate what the business model is, because we don’t know what it is,” Mason said. “There’s not a business model for content in the digital world. There’s a new business model for every piece of content you release.”
The emphasis is very much on artist partnerships, not deals with record labels or movie studios. Since most people associate BitTorrent with illegal file sharing, I assumed the big entertainment companies want nothing to do with it, but Mason said that’s not entirely true. (He also pointed out that BitTorrent drove 124 million legal music downloads in the first six months of the year, accounting for nearly one-third of the total 405 million music downloads on BitTorrent that were tracked by Musicmetric.) The bigger problem, he said, is that the entertainment industry’s terms are too onerous: “The deals just don’t make sense.”
So BitTorrent works with artists on one-off experiments. For example, it collaborated with DJ Shadow and his digital marketing agency Fame House to create a bundle with exclusive content around his release Hidden Transmissions From The MPC Era (1992-1996), and it ran ads for free software alongside those bundles. Mason said the company wasn’t happy with the download interface, so it limited the ads to a few geographies, but even so, the campaign saw 18.5 million impressions, with 4 million people agreeing to check out the free software — an impressive conversion rate of around 21.5 percent.
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