Digital Music

Sick of Sarah Goes ‘Platinum’ via BitTorrent

811481010781 In February, it was announced that Sick of Sarah would be releasing their latest album "2205" through BitTorrent's pilot program, Featured Artists. Hypebot has since learned that Sick of Sarah's release has been downloaded over one million times, which is quite an achievement for any indie act.

Sick of Sarah approached BitTorrent with the mindset that a promotion like this could help bring their music to new fans and increase concert attendance and merch sales in the long-run. Given the results, it's safe to say that the indie act was right.

BitTorrent, looking to legitimatize their influence and technology, got behind the release, promoted it, and ensured that it would be a success.

During the last month, everyone who downloaded uTorrent or BitTorrent Mainline application was automatically downloading the Sick of Sarah album unless they opted out, TorrentFreak reports. "Sick of Sarah also set a new BitTorrent record for the largest number of active seeders on a music album ever."

It had 82,943 seeders.

In an exchange with TorrentFreak, Sick of Sarah's bassist Jamie Holm said

"Our success on the BitTorrent platform has been overwhelming. This technology and audience aren't only the future, they're here today."

Holm says that she welcomes all the "the new fans and hope our experiments with online distribution and fan engagement open up new doors for other artists."

Due to Sick of Sarah's experiment, the group attained what could be called the digital equivalent of shipping platinum. A feat every indie act secretly wishes for.

Mission accomplished.

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  1. This is great information! I would have never thought of going directly to BitTorrent themselves. Brilliant marketing.
    That’d be fun if BitTorrent became the new MySpace, hosting band profiles and great torrent recommendation engine…

  2. This is so not the “digital equivalent of shipping platinum.” When something is free, numbers are much less meaningful than when people actually have to make a purchase.
    Never mind that this vaunted million-download figure was achieved through a practice otherwise rightly scorned: opt-out marketing.

  3. Well, shipping platinum doesn’t guarantee that anyone is buying either, which is sort of the point. However, I see yours too, and it may not have been the best way to frame it. 
    I realize that you can’t compare those numbers side by side.
    However, people opt-out of toolbars and all kinds of crap all the time. So, you have to believe that a good number of people did in fact want to try the music.
    How would you frame the number?

  4. The guy that runs BitTorrent was on a panel at the Digital Music Forum East earlier this year. I’m amazed he got out of there alive–he was not well received by the other panelists. He did mention this project.

  5. It would be great if you posted a follow up on what their ticket and merch numbers are after this giveaway. It would be interesting if the free music translates to paying fans.

  6. That’s a good question and I don’t think we know the answer to that yet. I have to think it’s at least a factor of 10– as in, ten million free downloads may be roughly similar to one million paid-for albums. But who knows? Could be a factor of 100.
    And yes my main point was that comparing what people might choose to listen to/look at/etc. for free is not equitably comparable to what people choose to spend money on. As for the supposed ease of opting out, yes, that’s true enough, but it’s also true enough that this is generally considered sleazy, and obviously skews towards many more people downloading the thing in question, otherwise it wouldn’t be done, yes? People may well have thought “Ok, it’s music, why not?” but in this case, again, does not remotely compare to a conscious investment.
    Backing off to the larger picture, I personally have no idea why people are so proud of viral “successes” like this. They so often seem to play off our worst instincts, and have little to do with anything of genuine meaning or value.

  7. I concur, this is far from shipping platinum. Besides just announcing that a million folks downloaded the band’s album, if there is a way to track it, they should have also announced how many people listened to the album, listen to one or two songs and stopped and things like that. God knows I’ve downloaded software and found crap on my PC, like toolbar additions that I missed opting out of and did not want AND deleted. So to Jeremy’s point, “forcing” the album on people – for free no less – is not shipping platinum. All that said, they have gained exposure to however many people of that one million that might take an interest in the music and hopefully, become fans, spread the word etc and hopefully bit torrent provides a way to contact those people.

  8. i havent seen this million downloads affect their social graph in the slightest…less than 10k Like’s on FB and less than 2k Followers on Twitter…how much has this really helped them?
    and if you include with the download of the torrent software, then its not like anyone is actually searching for them.
    this isn’t really great news at all.

  9. What an interesting topic! I say good for them! In this industry climate getting heard and making fans is hard, especially when an artist or band don’t have the financial backing of a label to promote them. Does a million downloads equate to platinum status? No because it’s like comparing apples and oranges. The million downloads DO amount to something if you think about how much they would have had to invest in advertising to achieve that many downloads. Of course there is still the issue that the downloads weren’t manual, but primarily automatic in nature. How many people ACTUALLY listened to the album? How many fans DID they make? Since the downloads were mostly automatic it would have been a good idea to list with the name of each file their website, so people could find out more about them or vice versa if they hadn’t done so.
    Free album download at

  10. They want to see the band live and buy merch (ie, tickets and t-shirts). That was part of Kyle’s initial supposition.
    I would like to see a follow up to see what percentage of the million downloads translated into some sort of financial benefit via gigs or sales of related goods. It would an interesting case study.

  11. I’ve actually contacted the band’s management and publicist in hopes of doing an article on the results of this release. Last year I covered Gama Bomb’s “Tales From The Grave in Space” with a series of articles from pre-launch of the free download to after the physical release.
    The way I look at it is even if only 1% of those million actually listened to it, that would still be 10,000 potential fans. And if only 1% of those 10,000 buy a shirt, ticket, whatever, the band has still done better than thousands of others who have spent countless $$$ trying to properly market a failed release!
    In regards to the nay-sayers, there is no single business model that works for every artist. Don’t automatically put down a band because they have stepped outside of what you typically consider your own comfort zone to try something innovative!

  12. Show the stats of improvement not just empty stats.. they are inflated.. band obviously got some exposure but most of fans may not even have listened to it.. I dont think the label will share real useful stats..

  13. There are many good points, but also very important is that, this was a featured project on a bittorrent-project that got a lot of publicity on the net. Also a lot of pirates/ideologists would properly support this project the first time and try to download the music.
    But does anyone here think that if this gets popular, a band will have the same amount of downloads when not featured? And also in 2 years time when 10.000 of bands are present on the site?
    My answer is clearly no…..
    This is a great case and congrats to the band (eventhough I’m not sure a million free downloads is that big of a deal), but this shows nothing of what other can do in the future…

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