Kaskade-02BitTorrent has unveiled its latest partnership with a music artist – EDM star Kaskade – through a deal with his label Ultra Music.

The partnership will see the release of an ‘Ultra Bundle’ on BitTorrent, based on Kaskade’s 2012 Freaks of Nature tour and promoting this month’s release of a documentary devoted to it.

“When you download the Ultra Bundle from BitTorrent, you get half the content gratis: the Dada Life remix of Dynasty, and the Freaks of Nature tour trailer,” explains BitTorrent in a blog post.

“The other half of the content inside the file? It’s a functional record store, with content you can unlock using your email. Opt to keep in touch, and Kaskade will hook you up with unreleased footage from his historic 2012’s Staples Center show, as well as an exclusive digital tour booklet.”

Essentially, the bundle is an advert and a free remix, then, with more video available if fans enter their email address, building a mailing list for Ultra to promote the documentary and other releases/artists to.

The big deal for BitTorrent is that this unlocking feature makes Kaskade’s bundle the first ever “gated torrent”.

In this case, the gate is an email-address form, but the company tells Music Ally that it could be whatever creators want: a flat-fee or pay-what-you-like paywall, a Facebook Like or an iTunes visit for example.

The blog post is bullish on the implications. “For fifty years or more, the path to purchase has essentially been the same. Go to the physical/digital record store, buy an album. But what if the record store was inside the album instead?” it asks.

“What if every single piece of content could function as a flyer, and a standalone storefront? What if you could code a checkout counter into each media file published by an artist? You’d be able to reach the people who slip through the cracks of traditional retail outlets – the other 40% of the Internet.”

BitTorrent has worked with music artists including Pretty Lights, DJ Shadow and Alex Day in the last year on experimental Bundles, but Ultra is the first client for the idea in its ‘Alpha’ stage, as it evolves and matures.

“The BitTorrent Bundle is not an album, an MP3, or an MOV. It’s a multimedia format. It’s an early build of a new type of torrent file where fan interaction, like email collection or donation, happens inside the torrent,” explains the blog post.

BitTorrent Bundle Logo“Our goal is to move the interaction to where it matters; making it a property of the file, versus the distribution framework; giving artists real data about, and real access to, their fans.”

Ultra Music is an interesting partner for BitTorrent, partly because it’s a chance to see how a different demographic responds to this kind of bundle: younger EDM fans

The label reportedly generated $30m of revenues in 2012, signing up more than 1m YouTube subscribers and attracting investment from major label Sony Music in the process.

Sony will presumably be keeping a keen eye on how Kaskade’s bundle does – although the label is no stranger to such initiatives, with Death Grips testing it out in 2012 when they were signed to Sony subsidiary Epic Records.

It’s important to note, though, that there is also still plenty of scepticism within the music industry about the value of BitTorrent bundles – and not just from people who still think of BitTorrent the company as responsible for BitTorrent piracy.

More data is needed on how artists make money – directly and indirectly – from releasing BitTorrent bundles. How many people downloading it are new to the artist rather than existing fans? How many go on to buy music, tickets, merchandise or other products? What sorts of conversion rates are being seen?

How, in short, do BitTorrent bundles fit into the many other moving parts for a modern artist’s career? But by running its experiments and now the Alpha version of its bundles initiative, BitTorrent is trying to answer those questions.

Beggars Group marketing manager David Emery wrote an interesting blog post this weekend about why there’s not one single “solution” for the music industry’s problems.

“Every artist and every release is different. There are no quick fixes. There are no new ways of doing things that are better then the old ways of doing things, only different ways of doing things that may or may not work depending on a million and one factors that you can’t hope to control,” he wrote.

BitTorrent bundles are one of those different ways of doing things, and signing up Ultra Music and Kaskade shows that BitTorrent is attracting increasingly prominent artists to give them a try.

That’s impressive, but it’s just the start of the latest chapter in BitTorrent’s drive to prove it can help artists build sustainable careers. ‘Kaskade uses BitTorrent’ doesn’t prove much, even though it’s interesting.

‘Kaskade uses BitTorrent and benefits in X, Y and Z ways’ (with illustrative data) will be the real story. For that, we’ll have to wait a few weeks.