Latest NIN album digital, DRM-free

March 4, 2008 | 07:36

Tags: #album #digital #drm #ghosts #music #nin #nine-inch-nails #reznor #trent-reznor

Companies: #riaa

Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor is putting his music where his mouth is, and has ditched the traditional label-centric approach to selling tunes in favour of a Radiohead-inspired independent release of the new album Ghosts I-IV.

You may remember that Reznor was quite scathing of Radiohead's launch of a DRM-free digital copy of their album for whatever sum fans thought it was worth, saying he thought “there were some serious flaws with how they executed” the near-giveaway. Reznor's misgivings weren't entirely unfounded, with almost two-thirds of downloaders failing to offer a single penny in recompense to the band.

Even so, it would appear that Reznor thinks there is something to be said for reduced reliance on the record labels that, rightly or wrongly, are developing a reputation for greed in the eyes of consumers. Accordingly, the band has released the first nine tracks from the album completely free of charge, and in a nice high-quality MP3 format free from nasty DRM. For those who complain about the lack of 'extras' included with digital distribution, you even get a 40-page 'sleeve notes' booklet in PDF format along with a selection of wallpapers and icons. Not too shabby for £0.

Obviously the band is still hoping to make something from this endeavour, and the album will also be released the traditional way via Sony BMG. If you want to see the hard work of the band financially rewarded without lining the fat cat record industry's pockets, Reznor has a selection of added-value goodies available direct from the band.

First and foremost is the basic $5: for less than the cost of a meal in a fast food restaurant you get the full album in a choice of formats, including the Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) and Apple Lossless for audiophiles to enjoy.

If you insist on getting something physical for your hard-earned, $10 gets you two CDs and a 16-page printed booklet. Sadly, you won't get your hands on the goods until April 8th (my birthday, co-incidentally) but you do get instant access to the $5 digital download option included.

If you would like to get something a bit more special, $75 gets you the two CDs from the $10 bundle in a stylish fabric slipcase along with a DVD containing the original studio multi-track uncompressed audio files for your remixing pleasure, and a Blu-Ray disc featuring the album in high-definition 96KHz 24-bit uncompressed stereo. Which is nice.

The true fan, however, will want to opt for the $300 “I Want Trent's Babies” bundle, which includes everything in the aforementioned along with four vinyl LPs and two limited edition prints signed by Reznor's fair hand. Nice.

It's clear that Reznor believes that the music industry needs to move beyond charging ludicrous prices for mass-produced CDs, and that by cutting out the middleman and offering 'extra-value' it's possible to earn a crust whilst keeping the fans happy.

Initial signs are good, with the server hosting the website buckling under the load; whether any of the traffic will actually be converted into paying customers remains to be seen.

This isn't the first time Reznor has toyed with unconventional distribution of music: he's gone on record in the past as claiming that the sharing of music on P2P networks actually helps rather than hinders artists, and made Saul Williams' last album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust, available for free download or a $5 donation in a similar way to Ghosts I-IV. He has even hidden digital copies of Nine Inch Nails tracks stored on USB flash memory in club toilets and encouraged finders to upload the music to file-sharing networks. This is the first time, however, that he's jumped in with both feet.

Let's hope that Reznor's faith in the generosity of his fans is not misplaced: or at the very least that we all get mesmerised by the shiny things on offer and shell out for one of the added-value options.

What do you think: a brave new dawn for musicians and fans alike, or should we heed the warnings of the RIAA? Do you predict bread and water for Reznor and the gang, or will his gamble pay off? Perhaps you're planning on treating yourself to the $300 limited-edition bundle? Let us know in the forums.
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