A new model for artists

Nine Inch Nails have for a long time been one of my favourite bands. The music may not appeal to everyone (not my parents anyway!), however the ideas and leadership of Trent Reznor are quite incredible. Even though this happened a little while ago, I know many people who would be interested in this who aren’t NIN fans and read my blog :)

Trent Reznor - yum!

Last time NIN toured Australia, Reznor made the news by basically giving permission to “steal” his music, saying that the music companies have been ripping music lovers and artists off for years in a despicable manner. At the time he was still bound to a music label so you can imagine they weren’t too happy about this statement.

When he finished that contract, he decided to try something new. Something that has proven new models can work to the benefit of artists, and that openness and financial gain need not be mutually exclusive. I think his example will simultaneously inspire artists to explore new models and inject a great deal of concern into the large music labels and fear-mongers like Copyright Agency Limited (CAL).

So what did he do? The latest Nine Inch Nails album – “Ghosts” – has been released online with five options:

  • A quarter of the album is available freely (“high-quality, DRM-free MP3s”) under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike Licence along with some beautiful artwork. People are strongly encouraged to remix these tracks
  • The full album is available for sale from the website for USD$5 under normal copyright
  • A 2xCD set – 2 audio CDs with 16 page booklet is available for USD$10
  • A $75 deluxe edition – hardcover fabric slipcase with 2xCDs, 1 data DVD with all tracks in multi-track format and a Blu-ray disc
  • Finally there is a special package available for USD$300 for hard core NIN fans. There were 2500 of these and they sold out in three days before the album even was released. That’s USD$750,000 alone!

All up it is clear NIN have made many millions from this album, and without the limitations and impediments of a record company.

It is completely possible now for many artists to create and publish their works online, make money, and maintain ownership of their work (as opposed to having to sign it over to a company, which authors typically do for a set period and musicians do for good). Massive global connectivity also gives artists the ability to take their talents globally in an instant!

Overbearing lock-down of artistic works (such as DRM or DMCA-like measures) benefit neither the artist nor their fans, and it takes just a little imagination and thought to balance the value of openness and the internet with the necessity of financial success for artists. Trent Reznor has done an incredible job at showing this in practical terms.

I have been under recording contracts for 18 years and have watched the business radically mutate from one thing to something inherently very different and it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate.

Wired article

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