Dear Trent Reznor: Don't Be Disheartened Yet

from the it-ain't-over-yet dept

Back in October, we had mentioned that Trent Reznor was producing an album by Saul Williams and had decided to mimic the Radiohead name your own price model for downloads. At the time, I was a little worried that musicians would simply mimic Radiohead’s first part of the promotion (the name your own price part) without recognizing two important things: (1) the “name your own price” part was just one part of a larger strategy to get publicity for a variety of things that would earn money and that (2) whether or not anyone pays a dime for the album is meaningless in that larger context. We’ve already seen a few people make that mistake, and it’s rather “disheartening” to see that Trent Reznor is making that mistake himself (in part…).

For reasons that are not at all clear, Reznor’s site is a blog that has no history. There’s no way to link to a specific post and once a new post goes up the current one will disappear. However, as pointed out via Digg, the current front page of Reznor’s site has some stats about how the “name your own price” experiment went: “As of 1/2/08, 154,449 people chose to download Saul’s new record. 28,322 of those people chose to pay $5 for it, meaning: 18.3% chose to pay.” Reznor then says: “I’m not sure what I was expecting but that percentage – primarily from fans – seems disheartening.”

Chris Anderson has already challenged Reznor’s math, by pointing out that by avoiding a record label, they still probably made more money this way, but even that is missing the larger point. You don’t do a “name your own price” offering to make money directly off the downloads. Any money you actually make is a bonus. You do it to get publicity and to add value to other things that you’re selling, creating a larger market for them. Reznor seems to admit to that part at the end, stating: “But… Saul’s music is in more peoples’ iPods than ever before and people are interested in him. He’ll be touring throughout the year and we will continue to get the word out however we can.” When you begin to focus on that larger picture, how much is made directly from sales, and what percentage pays vs. what percentage “freeloads” is meaningless. It will be more interesting to see the eventual results going forward.

Of course — there is one more thing that should be mentioned when discussing all of this. None of these business models work if no one actually likes the music. This isn’t a comment on Saul Williams’ music (which I have not heard), but if you can’t make music that people like, no business model is going to be effective. And, especially in the case of a new act that people have not heard of, they may be even more reluctant to pay upfront for the music, because they’re unsure how much they actually like the musician, especially if the music itself is an acquired taste. It’s yet another case where obscurity should be a much bigger worry than “piracy” or “freeloaders.” Every one of those “freeloaders” or “pirates” is not just a potential future buyer, but a potential marketer, promoter or sales person for future endeavors by that artist. To understand the business models in the future of music, you need to take a long-term view. So, don’t be disheartened, Trent. Focus on that final thought and look to the future.

Filed Under: , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Dear Trent Reznor: Don't Be Disheartened Yet”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Fushta says:

Re: Who's Downloading?

Is Trent keeping track of who downloaded based on IP Address? If not, take my example:
I downloaded the free version, listened, liked it enough to pay the $5.00.
Is he counting the number of people that did both? That would be excellent info to have.

Another interesting thought: Do you think the RIAA would have people downloading the free version like crazy to inflate the numbers so the percentages would be skewed? I wouldn’t doubt it.

4-80-sicks says:

spot on

I can confirm the last paragraph. I had never heard of Saul Williams, but I downloaded the album solely because of Reznor’s hand in it, as I like most of his music a lot. I listened to a couple of tracks all the way through, I skimmed some others, decided I didn’t like it, and deleted it. So I didn’t gain at all from the whole thing, but I do know who Saul Williams is now. This cannot be a bad thing. It’s not like I would have bought the album or a ticket or joined a fan club before forming an opinion on the music. And I went into it with the full intention of making a donation if I did like the music.

If one must (misguidedly) focus on the math, I think they should also consider that of the 80% that didn’t pay, a large number of them may be like me.

Hellsville (user link) says:

Nope, he should be disheartened, truly

Face it, music today is sold at a price that is WAY over its value.

I haven’t purchased any in years because the asking price is just plain stupid.

What is revealed in that first days “sales” is that most fans agree. That should dishearten Mr. Reznor quite a bit.

1$ for a song is a great price. Throw in 10.3 other tracks for free, cause most albums are just a good single with 40 minutes of fluff. The fluff tracks should be free, cause the cost to produce them is usually around 3% of the cost of producing the one good single.

So if 14% of people paid 5$ for it, thats still ~.7/album sale. By my speculative and horridly inaccurate math, thats only losing 30% of revenue for all that great publicity.

Derek (profile) says:

Re: Nope, he should be disheartened, truly

You see music as way overpriced, but to an accountant for a big record label it is not. Record labels release a lot of albums every year that turn out to be flops, so the only way to cover the costs of these is to make a lot of money from the good albums (take a high percentage). So basically the current music system is a response to their business model (which is not working anymore, since the value of music as a good has gone way down).

Also, a good single is a great way to advertise a new album, but selling it alone does not make any sense because the record company paid for the entire album to be produced, but instead of making $15 a pop, they are making $1 on that one good song. I am certainly not defending the record label, but looking at this from all angles you can see why selling only a single is not good business when you had to front the cost for the production of a whole album. And it is certainly not a good idea to sell and produce only singles, cause that would kill a ton of good music that the record label decides does not make the cut for a money making single.

just tring to provide a different perspective, with that said, i think Reznor’s idea is a good one, and techdirts analysis of it is also a good one. I think this is a much better way to go than signing with a big record label.

DCeyeC says:

NPR had an interesting piece on today...

that pretty much echoes your comments exactly.

Furthermore, the unknown artist (to me at least) in this piece now has fans her studio time through voluntary donations. The more money they give – the more time she has in the studio – the more music she puts out – the more music fans get for free (not to mention the value in letting fans feel like they played a part, no matter how small).

Trent Reznor should take heart in the fact that he’s smart enough (has the cajones?) to do something different than the music industry’s status quo procedure.

Anonymous Coward says:

NiggyTardust (Saul’s album) an acquired taste? I’ll say. It’s called rap-crap (spoken word my ass) and made ME feel disheartened from Nine Inch Nails. Saul’s music isn’t exactly being pirated. And he’s touring this year? Where? Oh wait, I don’t care. I paid the five dollars to support Trent Reznor’s endeavors and since he produced Saul’s work I was curious. I’m disappointed in the latest “production” and it’s a shame; I was hoping to like Saul’s lyrics and singing. It’s garbage.

listen_to_techdirt (user link) says:

You don’t do a “name your own price” offering to make money directly off the downloads. Any money you actually make is a bonus. You do it to get publicity and to add value to other things that you’re selling, creating a larger market for them.

I do agree with you that these generate a lot of publicity and free media coverage. However you need to keep in mind that these get you publicity the first few times. Once it becomes the norm, its no longer going to the kind of publicity it did for radiohead.

Reznor’s site is a blog that has no history.

If you were looking for a specific post and know any keywords, you might want to look it up in yahoo or google and look at the cached pages.

Gunnar says:

“I’m not sure what I was expecting but that percentage – primarily from fans – seems disheartening.”

What does he mean, primarily from fans? Does that mean he assumes fans paid or that only fans downoaded the album, and only 20% paid?

If it’s the first, it was an odd way of putting it. If it’s the second, it’s a profoundly naive way of looking at the traffic.

Most people who do buy albums these days still find new artists by downloading the album first. As we see, plenty of people downloaded first and thought little of the album. Radiohead had a better buyer-to-downloader ratio because, at the very least, they were a known quantity (and perhaps the album was better).

That’s why I like Quote Unquote Records’ strategy. They’re an online only, donation-based label. All bands on the label offer free albums, and all donations go through one paypal link. When you donate, you can suggest which band the money goes towards or just let it go equally.

Instead of asking the listener to chose at the point of download whether or not to pay, the label encourages people to come back (to find new free music) and to donate based on past experience.

boogabee says:

New world

I think something that needs to be recognized is we are not living in an age where a lot of kids are going to pick up a new song on the radio, it seems like every pre-teen has an ipod. On top of that it’s been 15 years since MTV played a video.

The way to get a song in someones ear isn’t going to work through the old channels, the artists will have to find a new way to get their music heard that doesn’t cost listeners up front.

Danno says:

Yeah, I too downloaded it for free, listened to a few tracks, and deleted.

I actually wrote an email explaining that it just didn’t correspond with my tastes and I got a nice reply back.

Soo… I mean, not a fan of the guy’s music, but I think well of him (or whoever writes his emails).

I mean, the whole free music download thing is a crapshoot for artists, but it’s a better crapshoot than charging for the music.

I’ve been reading the RCRD LBL blog for the past few months and I’ve downloaded and kept maybe… 5% of the music they’ve linked to, but of that 5%, I’d DEFINITLEY buy music or pay for a live show. The problem that RCRD LBL is having is that they’re giving me the broad range of music that I want to sample, but they’re not trying to get paid for it!

I wrote another email to them complaining about the lack of “BUY SOMETHING” links attached to a post about an artist… they didn’t get back to me.

Jim Ellis says:

Saul Williams

I, like most people on this thread, chose to download the music based on Trent’s risk strategy – I like he took the risk and want to support it.

However, I’m glad I didn’t pay for it as I would have seen $5 lost (although the more I listen the more I see the possibility of my liking it and probably paying the $5). I appreciate Trent’s marketing prowess, but as Mike (Masnick) points out in the original blog, people will only pay if they enjoy the music – this should not detract from the fact Trent is a pioneer in his field.

Going from Trent’s post ( he states the following statistics:

“Saul’s previous record was released in 2004 and has sold 33,897 copies.

As of 1/2/08,
154,449 people chose to download Saul’s new record.
28,322 of those people chose to pay $5 for it, meaning:
18.3% chose to pay.

Of those paying,

3220 chose 192kbps MP3
19,764 chose 320kbps MP3
5338 chose FLAC”

In my opinion, both Trent & Saul have won in this new marketing ‘ploy’. As the figures are quick to point out, I had never even heard of Saul Williams prior, so regardless of whether I purchase or not, Saul is reaching a vastly larger audience than he has ever reached prior – something that is a win-win for both Saul & Trent.

brian says:

niggy tardust

I never heard of Saul Williams before, and definitely would not have bought the album at a store not knowing him.

I downloaded it when I saw the chance. I thought it was cool. I didn’t pay anything for it.

It definitely is an acquired taste. Is this a platinum album? Probably not..

I thought the N word was killed off a year ago anyways…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I was disheartened that I will never regain the time I took to download Saul’s “music”, as well as I will never regain the time I took listening to it, trying my hardest to find ANY part of it that even resembled “music”. I think Mr. Reznor should be happy in the fact that Saul’s name is now atleast known by many more people than it EVER would have been, had the cd launched by routine commercial standards. In all honesty, they should be paying us the $5 to download it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Thank you, Mr. Masnick, for permitting, for allowing us to express our opinion without going down in flames. Mouth-foaming fans of Nine Inch Nails believe Trent Reznor has the Midas touch. He doesn’t. Branching out in other avenues is fine but I’d prefer he stick to his own talents instead of promoting Saul Williams. I’m sick to death of hearing about NiggyTardust and I don’t like seeing him slathered all over NIN boards. Saul has his myspace and whatever — go there and drool over Williams if so inclined but leave NIN to the fans.

plasma says:

I read Trent Reznor’s blog on and I feel sort of duped. He doesn’t sound discouraged about the outcome of internet download for NiggyTardust(idiotic name) and I paid that $5. I went into a catatonic state at my first and last listen. Like the title of one Saul’s songs, I, too, thought, WTF.

Let’s get back to all things NIN. M’kay?

SunshineState says:

Michael: You wrote “None of these business models work if no one actually likes the music.” With the exception of butt-kissers of Trent Reznor on forums, I don’t know a solitary person who likes Saul Williams’ album. The producer and Saul got what they wanted: Niggy! is on ipods and Saul is touring colleges. I’d hardly call that success. THE EMPORER HAS NO CLOTHES.

The spoken-word artist is destined for poetry reading in coffee shops. Make mine to-go.

Puck (user link) says:

Re: 1 that does.

I’m a NIN fan, but not a butt kisser. I myself have a very large range as for taste in music. Before downloading the albumn myself I looked up as much of Saul’s music as I could on sites like Youtube. The only reason I downloaded the album is because I liked what I heard. I liked what he had to say as much as I liked the music.
If he happened to be at a coffee house poetry reading I would stay. If I happen to see that he is performing around me, you can bet you’ll see me there. Though I do agree that it is an acquired taste.

oracle says:

The business model Nine Inch Nails chose will be lucrative…for Nine Inch Nails. I would buy their music sight unseen in a heartbeat through the internet. It’s a brilliant way to go and I like the idea of my money going directly into Trent Reznor’s pocket. I was told there’s some kind of hold on Year Zero (Part Two) and he’s working on different material. Bring it on because my Mac is up and running and the money is in hand. And I don’t even have to leave my apartment!

Anonymous Coward says:


Well, I’m one of the people that purchased the music and I REALLY enjoy listening to Niggy Tardust. My favourite section of the album is DNA through Scared Money. There are some tracks that don’t resonate with me as well as others, but then that’s the case with every album that I’ve ever owned or heard. Some tracks grow on my more over time too.

I think Trent Reznor has raised the profile of Saul Williams. Unfortunately, I’m not sure NIN’s fanbase is ultimately Saul’s target audience.

o.o says:


i didnt like this album at first, but it grew on me. instrumentals are great and saul’s voice is great too. paid 5$ for the flac download, so i was prolly more interested in giving it a few chances than people who paid nothing. when music becomes so readily accessible people get the tendency to listen fewer times and ‘delete’ rather than giving what they paid for another chance. trent’s production is this way, and saul’s message is this way, you have to take a few looks and listens to understand. we’re not talking about a britney’s spears album here for crying out loud! this isnt about hooks people! either way, considering most artists dont even make a 1$ per cd sale, i dont think trent should be moping.

and on a final note, it was refreshing to be able to buy the album in a format that i actually want. what am i supposed to do with a cd? pay an extra 15$-20$ for artwork i’m going to wipe my ass with and throw away after i ripped the cd?

most people just listened to this album because they were curious, so 20% buy rate isnt so bad.

wes says:

I think all these bloggers are missing the point. They think that Saul and Trent made more money because they got $5 a record to keep for themselves versus $1.60 a record … However, they are also covering the expenses of recording the album out of their own pocket. Normally a record label would cover those expenses and the $1.6 is straight profit for the artist (after they reimburse the record label for the advance they received to record the album).

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike: If “getting publicity for a variety of things” is true, then Saul is the guinea pig for NIN’s bigger picture, and NIN will do well using the web for sellable music, with a little tweaking.

Here’s what should be done: Saul should have his own separate account on youtube and his own website, I mean apart from Nine Inch Nails and I don’t mean his MySpace site. Saul is piggybacking on Trent because if it wasn’t for his generosity, Niggy would hardly be heard. The only good thing in the album is NIN’s obvious influence plus: NiggyTardust = Ziggy Stardust, Bloody Sunday = U2 and etc. Could it be more unoriginal?

And I’m not “missing the point”. Like Mike stated, If no one actually likes the music.. . Figure it out. I couldn’t care less about the $$$$, I want GOOD music.

Everything Trent did using the web was fine by me. I feel badly, he was excited about Niggy and I don’t have the heart to tell him: Hell no. I gave the 5 bucks because he believed in it and I wanted to believe but I can’t. God knows I tried.

Longtimefan says:

I’ve looked over Saul’s Myspace page and have heard and read enough about him, he seems a likable chap. I paid the $5.00 but was disappointed in the style of music. But I loved using the Internet, hands-down.

On the Myspace account Saul wrote Niggytardust is the “love child” of he and Trent Reznor.

I hope they don’t plan on having any more children.

Piko says:

Here's why I supported it

Only thing I had ever known of Saul Williams was through admirable mention by Trent in his interviews, thus sparked curiousity. So along comes Niggy Tardust, which I had already known trent was producing (again, from interviews). Trent, in another one of his interviews started sharing ideas on how to release digital music without the help from a label, which I sought promising, and an ideal which had, and still does have a lot of potential.

You had radiohead, who did the “choose your price”, which publicity-wise, did wonders for them. But it was publicity, and i’m actually very disappointed at that cock-tease of that promotion. When they first announced “we’ll be releasing it online in 10 days”. I went through the roof. But when they signed to a label…meh.

But anyway. Niggy Tardust was out, and yet I was yet to hear anything by him. Five dollars is five dollars. Yet I hadn’t heard him before, I did, on the other hand support the concept and the strategy so I paid the five, no questions asked. Do I enjoy the album? Yes, I enjoy a great deal of it; can live without some, but I like it. Do I regret shelling out five bucks? Absolutely not, particularly since I had mainly paid the five to support the cause, rather than the actual artist, himself.

Everyone can preach about “the labels are greedy”, and this and that, but when it came down to it, they did nothing. Granted though, if you don’t like something, why invest? But my true intent on paying for it was to help encourage this to progress and truly evolve into something. Saul seems to have profit a decent sum though, if you ask me. He sold almost 30,000, and there’s no royalties and such involved, which is great. So I don’t consider it so much a failure, but not so much a success either. Being as though it likely cost a few “cents” here and there to actually produce the album, that’d i’d imagine they’d (trent) would really just be breaking even, if even that.

But in a nutshell. Like it or not, if you want to make a point of artists going without the restraint and pressures of the record labels, show some support to the cause.

another schmuck says:


im a passing fan of nin and i had heard saul williams name thrown around. i bought it for $5 because I thought the concept was one that should be supported. it’s an ok album with some ok tracks. good for them that they made some money on it.
but my god… reading some of the crap the people above have written… what a pack of close-minded addle-brained dorks. hate hate hate. give ya a computer and an internet connection and you just spew your hate any chance you get. it’s great because you can count on that everyone who calls the album “crap” probably doesnt have a creative bone in their bodies, except when bitching on an internet forum.
“wah, it’s not pure unfiltered nine inch nails so it sucks!”
“wah, it’s rap music! it sucks!”
“wah, saul williams is riding trent’s coattails!”
dear lord. back in the day we used to take guys like you out back and beat you with a rubber hose.

I Hate Trolls says:

If anyone is “spewing” it’s you, schmuck, and your immature drivel. This is the ONLY place where I’ve seen the public allowed to speak their mind without getting thumbed down, flamed and attacked, much like you’re doing in your post. I’ve found the comments to be honest, well-thought out and humorous. I see no hate here but you’re filled with it.

“It’s an ok album with some ok tracks.”

You attack but you also dislike Niggy, schmuck. Get off your rocking horse, go back to your playpen and stop being a troll.

And get your thumb out of your mouth. Or your ass.

Gahariet says:

I think what people seem to miss is that this was a proof of concept against the record labels to show that smaller artists could work without a record label. Radiohead and NIN could easily survive without the label. The labels response is that they need the money to support the new acts. I think the idea of using a mentor/sponsor to help establish the new acts(I know Saul has actually been around for a few years) is the way to go.

I did pay the $5 and did like the record, it does take a few listens.

dtcon9 says:

niggy tardust

I think it is a fair assumption that the majority of the downloads were NIN fans checking out Trent’s work in a different genre. We never would have listened to, let alone bought, this record without Trent’s attachment. Is the record good? Sure…for rap music. Did it get more than a couple listens on my ipod? No…it is just not my thing. Like a single heard on a Top 40 Radio Station or played on MTV…I will listen, and respect the artist for their talent, but it doesn’t mean I want to buy it and make it part of the collection. Saul’s name is out there, there are dozens of blogs and news articles debating this subject…sounds like good marketing to me. Now Saul Williams needs to find his own audience like Trent Reznor did so many years ago without the benefit of a major internet marketing campaign.

Benjamin (user link) says:


1. You’re reporting on an artist you know nothing about. And the ignorance shows… would it have been that hard to DL Saul’s album and give it a listen to understand the kind of quality and attention was placed in the production of the music?

2. Reznor’s model is not Radiohead’s Cash Grab. Subtle but abundant difference reward the buying with FLAC and 320 kbps DL’s. At a suggested donation of $5, NOT pay what you can. Radiohead’s Pay what you can scheme was a waste, 192 kbps MP3’s for what most loyal fans considered paying the standard album prices for. They didn’t make the information about the DL’s available and subsequently took advantage of their audience. Also excluding tracks that will appear on the CD version.
Reznor’s model was more equitable and respected the relationships he has developed with both hi audience and Saul Williams audience.

3. Cost average for the production of the album, and the returns from the sales don’t make for a great profit that go to support the artist funding his own tour.
If Trent Reznor weren’t going to be involved with at least some of the touring, then it doesn’t exactly help Saul Williams get his shit to hit the ground running. Know what I mean?

All in all, Reznor has a right to be disappointed, he and Williams sought a method to distribute their product in an unfair market, and offered people something they couldn’t otherwise get from a major distributor, and a lot of people pissed on it.
I DL music and movies, mostly because I don’t see the value in purchasing music from iTunes, or Amazon, the compression is usually shite, plus very little of that money goes to actually supporting an artist, but instead continues to inflate a dead music business model and practice.

People took it for granted… And will most likely continue to do so.

Too bad, because it’s a good model.

Josh says:

I downloaded it for free

I was completely intent, naysayers be damned, to pay for the album if I had the intention upon KEEPING it after I heard a chance to hear it. I downloaded the album spent an hour listening for pearls that would lessen my bank account five dollars but I found none. Piracy is rampant and changing our media landscape but I digress, make something good and the people will come, and they will pay. This was not good to my ears, in my opinion, and I trashed it. I will be anything Nine Inch Nails makes blindly but asking me to spend my hard earned money in this economy on a “produced by…” tagline is a fool’s errand.

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually, the album is quite good

I downloaded the free version, gave it a quick listen, then purchased the
‘pay’ version.

Most of the complaints seen here and on the Saul Williams chat board seem
to indicate that the typical NIN fan isn’t very flexible in their musical tastes.

Too bad, their overly rigid mindset is causing them to miss out on some
great music.

WTF? says:

NIN fans are more than flexible in their musical tastes. They have their music sections on fan-based boards with plenty of diversity.

The complaints I’ve read here show the majority just didn’t care for Niggy. Trent said he “didn’t exactly call it hip-hop.” Hip-hop, rap, spoken word, it’s all the same: Irritating noise.

If Saul were removed from NIN forums (as stated above) I wonder how much traffic he’d actually receive from NIN fans. Unless Trent Reznor is mentioned my guess is very little.

I’ll think twice if NIN decides to produce another unknown. After throwing five bucks away and losing some faith in Nine Inch Nails, the whole Tardust thing is unsettling.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re #6 DCeyeC

I too heard that bit on NPR.
Very interesting.
Especially with the whole name change bit. She really changed her life over and gives herself to this.
Has my respect.
Also felt you needed a reply.

I have been addicted to NPR lately.
Everyday home from work, its no longer listen to radio.
Its turn radio straight to NPR.
Not so much while I am at home to turn radio on and listen to it, but its what I listen to in the car whenever these days.

huntermc says:

Anonther NIN Fan

I’m another NIN fan who paid the $5 for the download, but I didn’t enjoy the album that much. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was “crap,” but I gave it four or five listens and it just doesn’t suit my musical taste. However, I’m glad that I paid for it, because I want to see this business model succeed.

It is interesting to see the responses here, though, because from viewing the NIN Echoing The Sound forums you’d think that everyone loved Niggy Tardust. But obviously I see that isn’t the case and does go a long way to explain the low number of purchases. Also, I wonder how many flac downloaders also downloaded the free mp3 version to play in their portable mp3 player?

NIN4evah! says:

Re: Niggy

It is interesting to see the responses here, though, because from viewing Trent Reznor’s private fan website, The Spiral, you’d think that everyone loved Niggy Tardust.


Everyone does agree with the net downloading as it’s the way to go. If fans (public and private) really liked Niggy we’d be promoting the helloutofit!

PaulT (profile) says:

I’m late to comment, but I have a similar attitude to most of the posts I read. I downloaded the album for free, as I’d never heard of Saul Williams before though I do like Reznor’s style. I listened to the album, and really didn’t know what to make of it. Let’s face it, Trent, this is absolutely NOT commercial music, and is hard for many people’s tastes to accept.

If you’re offering the music for free, people will use the free method to listen first, then pay later if they like it. The percentages don’t matter, it’s the overall results, which take longer with this kind of experiment. Of the people who downloaded for free, many people hated the album and deleted it after a couple of tracks. So what? Those are people who would either not have bought a CD to begin with (they may not have heard of Williams, for example), or may have bought the CD based on Reznor’s name and felt ripped off because they didn’t like the music.

The people you need to concentrate on are those who did buy the album. How are the numbers – not percentages, but numbers of downloads compared to estimates of CD purchases? More to the point, how many downloaded after having listened to the CD for free? It’s the conversion rate of free to paid downloads that should be the most interesting figure here, along with a comparison of estimated CD sales compared with paid downloads.

For the record, I had never heard of Williams before this promotion was announced, so was unlikely to have ever bought the CD. I downloaded the album for free, and bought the $5 download after a couple of weeks. Did this count as 1 or 2 downloads, I wonder? Either way, Trent, you have exactly one purchase from me where the alternative would be ZERO, and I’m sure many others did the same.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re #55 Smellthis

Actually, you would be wrong sir.
I have been to three NIN concerts so far in the greater Detroit area. At least as far as Michigan goes, I generally see very few overweight people. Ugly, some, but that might be in part that I am not into that whole fishnet goth type style of clothing draping people in makeup.
But, for a state that is not as sunny as some, and cold just as much as warm, I see many more obese people at a mall than I would at a NIN concert.

Carrzy says:

Niggy Tardust

I downloaded the album for free using the legal method, and it sat on my computer for a while, then I gave a few songs a listen and skimmed the rest and I decided I didn’t like it.

I hope Trent has taken into account that a large number of his fans probably did the same thing I did.

In response to his disheartened comment, surely he wasn’t expecting Saul to come out King of the World on this one?

And personally, I find overuse of the N word a little bad, even if it is used in a sarcastic sense by a man who refers to himself as an N word.

Tori says:

An Acquired Taste

I find the comments on here fairly rude, be that what it may.

I myself enjoy the large majority of songs off of Niggy Tardust. I paid the money and would have paid more, even just to support the model and/or the artist. Is it an acquired taste? Maybe. But deducing from the fact that Panic! At The Disco and Redshoot Apparatus and 30 Seconds To Mars have been popular, I think a lot of people are lacking in the “good taste in music” department.

I think a lot of people need to give Saul another chance.
I think the only mistake made was that maybe it was not the right target audience.

By the way, Mike, do you know how condescending you sound in your article?

Oh and, Saul, is a guy, fyi.

DarkRAGE says:


I liked the album.

To me it sounded like an extention of the YZ production done in a rap context. Rap is not my favourite medium but I can hear the Trent, that I like, with something else, interesting, that I assume is Saul.

What people have to realise with any of this is that artists are creators & experimenters. “We are the music makers, the dreamers of dreams” presenting you with something new. Just because you don’t understand it does not negate it’s value.


MarshallHLaw says:

Trent Reznor's Venture

The business model is excellent. It got me to check out a musician that I never heard of on YouTube. The U2 cover song, Sunday Bloody Sunday, was also excellent. I feel I would be paying $5.00 for that one song though and, like most Americans, I still don’t have an Ipod. Maybe, by the time Halo 500 (or whatever he’s up to now) comes out or he produces an album more in line with my tastes, I’ll have an Ipod, a Gpod, or whatever is next 🙂

Bongo Masta says:

Sweet Jebus, please help these poor souls...

Sweet Jebus, please help these poor souls… for they think that they can determine whether an album is good or crap by skimming it. Now, that might be the case for plenty of pop pap, but Saul Williams is an ARTIST.

As for the pathetic “cRap” and “spoken word = rap = rubbish” comments: grow up. No, seriously, GROW UP.

Was Niggytardust a great album? IMHO: no — but there were some fine tracks on it.

So what went wrong? Well, the pricing obviously (a tip jar wouldn’t have hurt). And I still cannot fathom why so many fans paid and then downloaded an mp3 version when a flac version was available. (Bandwidth? Pur-lease, the file size difference between 320k MP3s vs Flac files isn’t that big.)

As for those complaining about not being able to hear it beforehand: Trent leaked one track days before the release via The Pirate Bay, and two more on the day of the release via SendSpace. But considering that so many people proved to be unable to figure out what FLAC was by clicking on the link that was provided, I guess that was asking too much.

In the end, the only people to blame are the music industry, who instead of developing a worldwide platform themselves, spent their time and money suing people. In the end, they were bypassed by Apple — and then the music industry complained some more. And don’t get me started on DRM. Sorry guys, but if kids these days are leeching music through whatever p2p technology is the shiznit these days, the music industry only has to blame itself.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...