Making good on his promise from last year, Trent Reznor, the iconoclast leader of Nine Inch Nails, has released the band’s latest CD on the Internet. Reznor is clearly experimenting not only with alternative distribution forms but with the music itself.
“Ghosts I-IV” is a 36-track instrumental collection that Reznor describes as “music for daydreams.” It extends what Radiohead began last year with its groundbreaking (for a major act) pay-what-you-want scheme, only Reznor has added his own twist.
“Ghosts I-IV” is available for casual fans — free, $5, and $10 — and for hard core NIN lovers — $75 to $300. Reznor’s experiment, like many artists in the music industry today, relies on the theory that fans will pay for the music (and not download it illegally) if there’s extra value included, and Reznor certainly has that covered.
“Ghosts I-IV” begins as a free download, or at least the first nine tracks. The music is DRM-free, comes with a 40-page PDF, and is a great way for those unfamiliar with the band, or casual fans, to try out the new music. (It’s is a one-time download per email address.)
For five bucks, you can download all 36 tracks in a variety of digital formats (300 kbps MP3, FLAC Lossless, Apple Lossless), plus get the PDF.
For 10 bucks, you get a double-disc Digipak (the physical CD), a 16-page booklet, and it’s available April 8. You can also download the digital files immediately.
It’s almost the super-duper collection: You get a deluxe-edition of “Ghosts I-IV” in a “hardcover fabric slipcase” (like a boxed set), containing two audio CDs and one data DVD with all the tracks in multi-track format. You also get immediate download of album and a Blu-ray disc. It ships May 1.
It’s the super-duper collection, for hard core fans only. You get the “ultra-deluxe” limited edition — it’s the same as the deluxe-edition, plus a four-LP set on 180-gram vinyl, in a fabric slipcase. You also get two limited-edition Giclee prints, numbered, signed by Reznor. This edition is limited to 2,500, one per customer. It also ships May 1.
Like Radiohead, NIN will get to keep most, if not all, the revenue from the sale of “Ghosts I-IV” on its Web site (it’s also available at Amazon MP3). A physical disc will eventually be sold through traditional retail stores on the Sony BMG Red Octane label.
Also like Radiohead, NIN will probably follow the Internet release and subsequent sale of the physical CD with a tour of some sort, resulting in revenue from ticket sales and band merchandise.
Reznor must be confident that experimental music sold in an experimental manner will be successful. “This music arrived unexpectedly as the result of an experiment,” Reznor wrote on the band’s Web site. “The rules were as follow: 10 weeks, no clear agenda, no overthinking, everything driven by impulse. Whatever happens during that time gets released as . . . something.”
And in some form, whatever it happened to be.
Update: Much of the day the NIN “Ghost” site has been hammered, and we’re still not able to download the music. Interestingly, the music ($5 option) is available at Amazon MP3 and the band’s “official” upload at The Pirate Bay for those of you familiar with BitTorrent.