Nine Inch Nails (NIN) is now a big time rogue band - since its contract with Interscope expired in October - with a cult following and in what some have likened to a Radiohead-esque move, have released their latest album Ghosts I-IV, on their official website only. Ghosts is an instrumental collection of "almost two hours of new music composed and recorded over an intense ten week period" and what Trent Reznor called "a soundtrack for daydreams."
While there are certainly parallels to Radiohead's In Rainbows release, how quickly people forget that just under a year ago, NIN made a revolutionary move by making Year Zero available for streaming on their website as well as allowing fans the opportunity to "Listen. Change the tempo. Add new loops. Chop up the vocals. Turn me into a woman. Replay the guitar. Anything you'd like." Make no mistake, NIN is no stranger to pushing the boundaries of the music distribution.
So what's the difference between the release of Ghosts in comparison to that of Year Zero and why is it being compared to the release of In Rainbows? Not attached to any label this time, NIN and has decided to distribute their album themselves, via the NIN site. For free anyone can download Ghosts I, which contains the first nine songs of the collection, for $5 you get the full 36 song download with 40 page digital booklet, and for $10 you get the download plus 2-disk CD set in the mail. For die-hard fans, there are a couple, more pricey deluxe packages including a sold out limited edition package for $300.
With this price hierarchy, NIN distinguishes themselves in terms of more sophisticated business savvy by setting the value of the collection. I expect that like Year Zero, this album will remain available on website and even if all physical formats sell out, it will stay available as a digital download. If this is the case, it is certainly a departure (and upgrade) from what Radiohead did with In Rainbows, removing it from their website after the release date and eventually releasing a physical CD through an independent record label.
Pushing the intellectual property and copyright envelope even farther, NIN has also released Ghosts using a Creative Commons license, which is far less restrictive than traditional album copyrights, and will make the album available for remixing. Thousands of fans have already shared their deconstructed versions of NIN songs as part of the NIN remix community, the same concept will be applicable to this latest release.
I'd say Nine Inch Nails has definitely made some improvements on the model presented by Radiohead and incorporated them quite nicely into its own mission to bring fans closer to the music.
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This article is cross-posted to Vinyl Notes