Print 29 comment(s) - last by phxfreddy.. on Apr 8 at 3:34 PM

Nine Inch Nails demonstrates that yes, you can compete with free

Despite distributing part of his new album in the BitTorrent underground, endorsing piracy in numerous appearances, ditching his label, and perhaps offering one of the best $5 deals of the year, Trent Reznor and his accomplices at Nine Inch Nails managed to make good money. A lot of good money: his new album, Ghosts I-IV, sold 800,000 copies and raked in $1.6 million, in the first week.

What’s surprising about this number, aside from the obvious, is that the album made what it did while being freely and legally available in its full form (more on that in a bit) on the pirate underground. Nobody other than Nine Inch Nails planted the first seed: personally acknowledging that the “free trial” 8-track sample version of the album would be listed side-by-side with the 36-track pirate version, Reznor kindly asked users to buy the CD on the official web site, resorting to no threats and no drama.

But you know what? The full 36-track pirate version of Ghosts I-IV – the version that Reznor kindly asks you to buy from the website instead of download is perfectly legal. Why?

Creative Commons, baby. The copyright alternative! Page 39 of Ghosts’ liner notes states that the album is licensed under a Creative Commons “Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike” license, which unlike a normal, all rights reserved copyright arrangement, grants the listener some-rights-reserved privileges, including the ability to remix and distribute the album at no consequence. There are limitations, of course: the “Attribution” part means that licensees can’t pass the album off as their own, and the “share alike” forces any derivative works to be distributed with similar terms – but free is free!

Now, I know that effectively licensing the album for free was probably not Nine Inch Nails’ intention; rather, it is more likely that Reznor chose a Creative Commons license to facilitate remixing, which was previously used to great effect for Year Zero. Regardless, choosing to license via Creative Commons is an incredibly noble move on behalf of Nine Inch Nails, and an incredible victory for the Creative Commons movement – because outside of the occasional featurette in Wired, Creative Commons seems to be all but sidelined when it comes to mainstream visibility.

Unfortunately, Nine Inch Nails may be one of the few that are currently able to pull a move like Ghosts off. Most other bands of Reznor’s clout seem to be indifferent to progressive copyrights and distribution – a select few choose outright hostility – and most bands willing to mimic Nine Inch Nails’ model don’t have a large enough fan base to fall back on. Even Radiohead, which by itself is something of a force to be reckoned with, had mixed success after venturing into free. Creative Commons is still something of a catch-22 for most folks; however, much like anything new, now that we’ve seen a good success story we’ll likely see other artists follow suit.

Personally, I purchased the $10 version of Ghosts, opting for FLAC downloads and a copy of the CD, whenever it arrives. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest Nine Inch Nails fan – I can’t stand listening to anything before The Fragile – but I am pleasantly surprised with Ghosts. If anything, it’s great music to chill out to, and the album’s gentle, ambient nature means it’s also great music to write to. By all means, check Ghosts out … after all, it is free.

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RE: So THAT'S how he did it!
By NullSubroutine on 3/17/2008 11:07:02 AM , Rating: 2
But what you fail to attribute is the fact that record industry is no longer needed to get out music to the masses. Viral marketing on things like Myspace, Facebook, and Youtube is all that is needed and in fact I believe much better than any traditional means of marketing. Add this to ingenuity like Reznor's to spread it on the Pirate Bay.

I am not the only person who would rather give my 5-10 dollars directly to the artist than have to choose between giving 90% of that money to the media conglomerate executives or downloading the whole thing for free. In fact I would buy all the NiN albums I do not currently own if he put them up directly like this (don't know if he could).

RE: So THAT'S how he did it!
By mindless1 on 3/17/2008 11:52:17 PM , Rating: 2
You must be kidding. The average adult over, say 25 years old does not spend much if any time on Myspace or Facebook. The average computer savvy person is also blocking ads or at least ignoring them, and myself included - the last thing I would ever do is justify advertising by clicking through or buying what was advertised if/when I see it advertised (though if I buy something I don't go actively seeking to find an ad as a reason not to buy).

There are two primary avenues for promotion, retail CD sales and radio stations. Maybe MTV used to be one but it's a joke to call it music television these days with all the non-music-video content.

I too would rather give 5-10 directly to an artist, no arguement there.

RE: So THAT'S how he did it!
By NullSubroutine on 3/18/2008 3:44:21 PM , Rating: 2
I am not talking about paid advertisements. I am talking about people talking and sharing music and entertainment. People sometimes like sheep, thats how singles can spread like wild fire.

The largest demographic of music purchasers are tween females, who infest social networking sites.

RE: So THAT'S how he did it!
By desertvet on 4/8/2008 7:45:39 AM , Rating: 2
Well said. I remember when MTV made it's debut and it's a far cry from being Music Television now. It's turned into a quasi marketing firm that acts as a surveying conduit for its advertisers.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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