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NIN's Music Experiment Sells Big Numbers 452

An anonymous reader writes "It looks like Trent Reznor's new Nine Inch Nails album experiment is a success. Among the various options he gave fans, the most expensive was the $300 Limited Edition Ultra Deluxe Package. It took just over a day for that package to completely sell out, earning Reznor $750,000 in revenue from just that option alone."
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NIN's Music Experiment Sells Big Numbers

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  • Awesome! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dancingmad ( 128588 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:12AM (#22647222)
    As big name artists like NIN and Radiohead pave they way, I fervently hope and pray we are seeing the end of the RIAA.

    I haven't bought an American CD in years because of how the RIAA strong armed colleges and effectively shut down web radio.

    This system is far fairer to the artists as well; they get a far bigger piece of the pie. There will be fallout for artists I am sure, but I think it will lead to a far richer music industry in the U.S.

    In short, I am just really happy that a few bands are beginning to pave the way to a world without an RIAA.
  • What a shock (Score:5, Interesting)

    by damburger ( 981828 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @05:24AM (#22647270)
    When people are given choices, they are often through their own free will kind to other human beings. There is no need for guns pointing at peoples heads to make us play nice and share - we will do it naturally if left alone.
  • by rjcarr ( 1002407 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:00AM (#22647418)
    I liked your comment but you're making a bad assumption:

    "Would they spend $300, or anything close to it, for special edition releases of albums from all the other artists they like?"

    Sure, many people listen to dozens if not hundreds of different artists, but when asked, they'd say they only have 1 or 2 or a few favorites. It seems NIN are favorites to 750,000 / 300 fans, but there might be just as many Barry Manilow fans willing to pay just as much and sell just as many copies.

    The intersection of this fan base is likely to be very small, though. :)
  • by Aaron Isotton ( 958761 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:22AM (#22647492)
    I really hope that this trend continues. I'd love to see something like this:

    An online music store with all kinds of music (like the iTunes store), but:

    - No DRM *at all*.
    - Previews as MP3. Say, the first 30 secs of every track. The first 50% would be better. Should be "kind of good quality", say >= 128kbit.
    - All tracks in at least the following formats:
        - MP3 "good quality", say >= 256 kbit
        - Lossless in a free, open format. Flac in other words.
    - The ability to use the store from the web.
    - The ability to put multiple tracks in a "cart" and download the whole cart as a zip would be a big plus.
    - An open API for different clients would be a huge plus.
    - And, last but not least, the ability to have some sort of "account" and to re-download tracks I already purchased, whenever, wherever and how many times I want to.

    It would be ok if the tracks are somehow watermarked, i.e. if they can tell from a file which user downloaded a track and block his or her account if they are redistributing the tracks.

    I would also appreciate formats "better than CD", e.g. Flac tracks in DVD Audio quality (24 bit, 96 kHz if I'm not mistaken). I'd also appreciate album covers and similar stuff.

    I am prepared to pay for a quality product I can use for years to come. I am not prepared to pay for some badly encoded track I can use on few specific players, and I do *not* want to re-buy everything if I switch players/want higher quality etc.

    Just had to say that.
  • by Kethinov ( 636034 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @06:43AM (#22647566) Homepage Journal
    What I don't understand is why he didn't offer the whole thing on bit torrent as opposed to 1/4 of it. The whole album is licensed under creative commons, so all the piratebay torrents are totally legal. Why isn't he running his own tracker with a few ads here and there to make a few extra bucks off the freeloaders instead of letting piratebay get the ad revenue?

    It's not that he needs the money, but it would set a better example than the admittedly spectacular one he's already setting. Speaking of setting examples, why isn't he taking his immense wealth and starting a brand new record label based on this tiered style of distribution? (e.g. all you can drink free downloads for the freeloaders in exchange for some ad revenue and high quality spiffy packaging for the paying customers.)
  • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AGMW ( 594303 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:04AM (#22647636) Homepage
    In short, I am just really happy that a few bands are beginning to pave the way to a world without an RIAA.

    It's happening all over - about 18 months ago a new music site called Sellaband [] opened its doors to unsigned Artists around the world. The object is to pre-sell copies of your next album at $10 (US) a piece. Once you hit $50000 you are put into a top studio with top producers and for each $10 Part a Believer purchases they get one copy of the 5000 Limited Edition versions of the album. Regular editions are also made available for the Artist to sell at gigs etc, and now [] have signed up to sell them, and even pre-order 100 copies by buying 100 Parts once each Artist reaches $30000.

    The Believers then get a share of the advertising revenues, and sales of the regular CD, plus anything they can make on selling any spare Limited Edition CDs, the Artist gets a third, Sellaband [] gets a third and the 5000 Believers share the last third. It's not going to make you a millionaire but its sort of fun!

    So far there are over 6000 Artists registered, with 17 having made the $50000, last night Kaitee Page became the latest, and 7 of them now have their albums available from the Sellaband shop [] where you can purchase the CDs or download the tracks - the first three tracks are free and the others are all on 50c (US) each

  • Re:I got it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Admiral Ag ( 829695 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:17AM (#22647674)
    I'm downloading the lossless version now. Mr Reznor is more than welcome to my 5 bucks. I hadn't listened to NIN since the nineties when one of my room mates used to blast "Closer" all the time. Not my kind of thing, but I figured there was nothing to lose in downloading the free tracks from "Ghosts" yesterday. I'm a big Brian Eno fan, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it.

    This is how it should be. I would never have even listened to this album if I hadn't been able to try out those tracks for free. Being able to download DRM free in lossless is the killer. I hope this is a massive success for NIN to encourage other artists to do the same.

    I really like how he has taken advantage of the digital format to make the album art for each song different. It shows up in iTunes album view with the regular cover, but if I play it on my iPod Touch the art (which is damn cool BTW) changes with each song. It's a nice little effect.
  • by Kethinov ( 636034 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:17AM (#22647678) Homepage Journal

    But if ever there was a man in the perfect position to lead a revolution in the music industry it's Trent Reznor. He's become the de facto figurehead for progress in the music business. And he has all he needs to successfully lead such a revolution: 1. immense fame, 2. immense critical acclaim, 3. a willingness to experiment with radical new business models, and 4. gobs of money to serve as venture capital.

    Aside from the possibilities of being totally unaware of his potential or unfortunately unwilling lead the movement as you imply is possible, I can conjure up no reasons as to why he hasn't tried already.
  • by stephend ( 1735 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:27AM (#22647708) Homepage
    Yet, as The Register notes, despite the low price "Pirate Bay has eight thousand concurrent downloads at time of writing []." Even if you ignore the RIAA-style maths in calculating lost earnings it's not a good sign that people are not prepared to pay even $5 for 4 CDs worth of music in a DRM-free format.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:29AM (#22647712)
    Says who?

    It's long been fairly well understood that the way to become rich is to produce one small thing that everyone wants, and sell it everywhere cheaply. Usually business majors think in terms of things like razors and blades, or deodorant, or beer, but if you consider musicians and authors, you get a more illustrative example.

    A musician makes music, which is sold on CD for about ten bucks; an author writes a book, which is printed and sells for 5.00 to 30.00. Both are cheap enough that everyone can afford a copy, and both represent the sort of thing we buy to make our lives FUN, as opposed to just tolerable. In both cases, millions of copies of the item can be produced and sold. And millions of 10.00 sales result in millions of dollars of profit.

    There's NOTHING wrong with that; your problem is you can't do it yourself! I read your post and I hear a guy who despises those who do what he cannot, and would spite them their just rewards for their hard work. All you anti-copyright people are the same way... You can't create anything new or interesting yourself, so you want to pretend it's some great injustice for society to support people who CAN. What bollocks.

  • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Xest ( 935314 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @07:50AM (#22647812)
    I like the sentiment of your post, I really do.

    But whilst people keep buying products from the likes of Sony et al. such as the PS3, DVDs and so forth then the RIAA isn't going to go away anytime soon by way of financial drought.

    Unfortunately the RIAA isn't some isolated entity that can be vanquished, it's made up of a lot of major multi-nationals with massive amounts of resources that can be pooled from other business areas if need be.

    The best bet for destroying the RIAA is to ensure the current companies that make up the RIAA don't have control of the next generation of music distribution and that the companies involve in the next generation of music distribution aren't equally as evil as the current generation. Ideally we need to see companies like Sony pull out of their music business altogether in the long term, although that's a tall order and with the massive amount of resources and the massive footing these companies have in the music industry I'd be surprised if we can get them to withdraw altogether.
  • by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @08:12AM (#22647900)

    It's long been fairly well understood that the way to become rich is to produce one small thing that everyone wants, and sell it everywhere cheaply.

    That's one way of becoming rich. Another is to find something people want that you can acquire a monopoly on, and sell it without competition. People selling CDs have chosen this course, and they are only able to do so with the government's help.

    A musician makes music, which is sold on CD for about ten bucks

    No, those people aren't in the business of selling music. They are in the business of manufacturing copies. That is something anybody can do. Machines can do it for essentially no cost. That's why they need the government to protect them from competition.

    In both cases, millions of copies of the item can be produced and sold. And millions of 10.00 sales result in millions of dollars of profit.

    Sure, but the only reason they can get away with charging $10.00 is because the government helps them. And the only reason all those sales go to them rather than some other manufacturer is because the government helps them. Without government help, the competition would drive their prices down and take a large portion of their sales.

    There's NOTHING wrong with that

    Sure there is, the government is stepping in to make particular people rich instead of letting the free market do its job. I'm not totally against the concept of copyright and I'm certainly not arguing that free markets are perfect. But you're only looking at the demand side of the equation and giving them a free pass on the supply side, and that's something that we, as a society, are totally subsidising them on. And when they are making millions of dollars, it's not a bad idea to question how justified that subsidy is.

    your problem is you can't do it yourself! I read your post and I hear a guy who despises those who do what he cannot,

    Yeah, see, the trouble with that is there's nothing whatsoever in my comment to suggest this. It's pure fantasy on your part.

    For what it's worth, I write code for a living. A lot of people consider that to be just as creative as music. It's certainly of more practical value.

    and would spite them their just rewards for their hard work.

    Oh, I have nothing at all against rewarding them for their hard work. What I object to is rewarding them for the things that don't take any hard work — the manufacturing of copies.

  • by clickety6 ( 141178 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @08:22AM (#22647946)
    ...doing well by selling like this, then I'll believe a change is coming. So far the only bands making a killing this way are those that have been over-hyped and shoved down our throats for years by the record labels so they are already (in)famous.

    If Mr Razor was an unknown releasing his first album this way, their would be far fewer people willing to pay $300 for a limited edition set and far fewer people even paying $5 for the normal set... assuming we even knew it was available.

  • Re:Awesome! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aproposofwhat ( 1019098 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @08:25AM (#22647962)

    Unfortunately the RIAA isn't some isolated entity that can be vanquished, it's made up of a lot of major multi-nationals with massive amounts of resources that can be pooled from other business areas if need be.

    I can't see a (rational) manager of a multinational business taking money from a profitable area of business to piss it away on what is obviously a failed business model - I foresee the big labels shutting down, or at least not producing new content unless it's by established 'artists' in whom they have a major investment.

    If I were in charge of Sony, I'd be looking to sell off the music part of my business, because there just isn't the return on investment anymore.

    Hopefully some complete arse of a venture capitalist would buy it, like the clueless clowns that bought EMI, and they'd piss all their money down the drain rather than mine.

  • by Downside ( 662268 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @08:41AM (#22648058)

    However, is this success likely to be duplicated?

    No, the most likely outcome is still no money for the artist, but what's new about that?

    The difference is that this business model has two outcomes in order or likelyhood:

    • Artist makes no money
    • Artist makes money

    The traditional model has three outcomes, in order or likelyhood:

    • Artist makes no money
    • Artist makes no money, label makes money
    • Artist makes money and label makes money
  • Re:Awesome! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pipatron ( 966506 ) <> on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:04AM (#22648156) Homepage
    Unfortunately it's probably not that easy. Let's continue with Sony as an example. You could argue that they want to keep the media division in order to have content to play on their locked-in hardware like MiniDisc and Blu-ray. Thus, even if they actually lose money on it, it's still important for them in a marketing sense.
  • Re:I got it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aurispector ( 530273 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:16AM (#22648236)
    The pipes were clogged!

    Seriously, I wouldnt blame NiN. As much of a pain in the ass as this is, look at the bright side; it's the beginning of a new era in music that doesn't include the corporations. There is bound to be some hiccups and you can bet that the people in charge of the website sales are overwhelmed. Patience.

    On the other hand, I still think they got the pricing wrong even at about 14 cents per track. Everyone knows that all of the tracks will be up on torrents immediately. The price is really a reflection of how badly you want to support the artist. All the tracks should be available for free, or at least with flexible pricing like radiohead. I'd be willing to guess they would make about the same amount of money since the folks that dont want to pay will simply download torrents, whereas the ones that want to show support will pay.
  • by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:24AM (#22648296) Homepage Journal
    I think that raises another point about Ghosts that has been largely missed: this isn't an otherwise terribly marketable album, at least not from a label perspective. It's 36 varied purely instrumental tracks with no catchy singles, no hooks, and nothing ideal for radio play. If Trent had handed this to a major label they would probably have just quietly buried it. Yes, there are niche labels for this kind of material out there (Warp being the most prominent that comes to mind), but they don't exactly have major marketing budgets. I suspect Ghosts will get far more listeners who weren't already fans going this route.
  • Re:Awesome! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by StuckInSyrup ( 745480 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:26AM (#22648330)
    The best way to remove a tick is to catch it firmly with a forceps close to the skin and simply pull it out. Suffocating it using vaseline or some sticky stuff results in the dying tick vomiting the half digested contents of its gut back into the wound, increasing the risk of infection.
    Is there an analogy with this whole Renzor vs. RIAA business? Perhaps that a slowly dying parasitic organization will be even more dangerous?
  • Re:I got it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @09:52AM (#22648532) Homepage
    I downloaded the first free album just to see if it was worth purchasing. I was extremely disappointed. One song consisted of the same 11 notes played over and over again for 3 minutes. One song had so much distortion it was painful to listen to. A lot of it sounded like the soundtrack to Alone In The Dark, or some other similarly themed game. The music was extremely repetive. Most of the songs were extremely simple, and were basically the equivalent musically of "Mary Had a Little Lamb", although the song sounded a little darked. I'm not sure why everybody thinks it's so great. I love that bands are starting to have much better online music offerings, and breaking away from the labels. However I found that this album just isn't something that I enjoy listening to.
  • Re:I got it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:00AM (#22648628) Homepage
    That's where corporations like Apple or other dedicated online music stores can really help out though. It's not cost efficient for most bands to buy the necessary servers just for the 1-2 week period following the album's release. You probably won't find many hosting providers that want to sell you a ton of traffic for 2 weeks, and then have your usage drop to 5% of that. I think that with all the rage over this type of distribution, there really needs to be a more efficient way to distribute it. First, if you want it free, it should be bittorrent only. That would get rid of a lot of congestion. I would also like to see something from bittorrent where you make your purchase, get a key, and enter that into the application. After you enter a valid key, you're allowed to join the torrent. You'd need a central server for key verification, but that would be a lot easier to setup, and not overload, than everybody trying to download the music off a single server.
  • by Dire Bonobo ( 812883 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:06AM (#22648722)

    it's not a good sign that people are not prepared to pay even $5 for 4 CDs worth of music in a DRM-free format.

    Why? There's a lot of music I wouldn't pay $5 for; most of that I wouldn't bother downloading even if it was free.


    There does indeed exist some music that I wouldn't pay $5 to get access to, but that I'm sufficiently interested in to give a listen to. Having acquired that music, I'd get a chance to listen to it, and decide whether (a) I wanted to buy it, and (b) whether I was interested in acquiring or buying other music from the same artist(s).

    $5 is cheap, but not cheap enough to remove all music from the "I'll need to try before buying" category.

    Do I think that's what all of those 8,000 concurrent downloads are? Of course not. I do think, though, that the vast majority of those downloads never would have been sales in the first place, and that the number would not be drastically lower even if the official download was free. At a guess, Pirate Bay is simply the default content provider for some people, and it never even occurs to them to look for an "official" provider, regardless of price.

    That, and some people are hoarders; I'll bet a fair chunk of those Pirate Bay downloads never get listened to.
  • Re:Awesome! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JesseMcDonald ( 536341 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:45AM (#22649208) Homepage

    I'm fairly sure the reason Magnatune et al. only offer the CC "no commercial use" license is that they derive a significant portion of their revenue from their 50% cut of any commercial licensing fees. BY-SA licensing would offer them very little as no one would need to pay extra for commercial licenses.

  • by Chonine ( 840828 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @10:54AM (#22649326)

    I think an important thing to mention to those that are not NIN fans is how this release was announced.

    It wasn't.

    Two hours before this album was released online, there was an ominous "Two hours..." message posted at

    Then, BAM, new album. Even the most die-hard NIN fan had no clue it was coming. Where as before the marketing procedure took months, and there were many slow leaks in the process, this time Trent was in control.

    Make an album, make artwork, set up servers, release online. Its a good setup. Do you have any idea about the kind of label BS that you have to go through with an album? The promotion, the radio samplers, the flyers, posters, it is a lot of time and effort - there is like a 3 month window for it all. Here, Trent took his 10 weeks to make it, and then pretty much put it on his website.

    You can bet the next album has an even shorter window, and again he is in control of its secrecy. I've never before seen someone announce *and* release an album on the same day, and with Trent's history, he was the last person I expected it from.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @11:50AM (#22650208)
    Seconding this. I paid $5 each for the MP3 and the FLACs and was unable to download either. Now I can use my link to the MP3 download, but I still can't get the FLAC, despite several emails to their technical support. My link has allegedly exceeded it's download despite the fact that I was never able to download more than 5mb of the damned thing. I had to download from a torrent just to get the product I paid for twice.

    (And the only reason I paid twice was because I refreshed the stupid checkout confirmation page since it kept timing out!)

    The infrastructure for this release was a complete mess. While Trent can certainly be applauded for this release method, at least Radiohead had the proper system in place to handle the massive influx of users downloading. NIN's excuse for the ridiculous instability is that they weren't expecting the huge demand since the release was a surprise. Are you kidding me? This is the internet, it takes 5 minutes for 40 million people to find out about this. If other huge names are going to go this route, they damn well need to make sure they can actually pull it off.
  • Re:I got it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by palme999 ( 82528 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:01PM (#22650390)
    This is where services like Amazon's S3 makes sense (
    Traffic on demand and you only pay for what you use. Pricing is under $0.18 per GB transferred.
  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Wednesday March 05, 2008 @12:52PM (#22651234)
    All the talk about individuals spreading torrents of the paid-for tracks is missing the point.

    Anyone care to bet that the RIAA and/or labels themselves aren't putting non-label artists tracks on the Pirate Bay just to undermine artists attempts to try and find an alternative business model?

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"