Trent Reznor Continues Business Model Experiments: Releases Latest Album Online
from the with-choices... dept
Trent Reznor has certainly been doing a lot of experimenting lately with business models. His last album, which was still on a major label, involved some unique promotional attempts, which actually upset his record label. He also recognized that since the CD itself was going to compete with online downloads that he needed to make the physical CD worth purchasing by making it cool (in this case, color changing after you played it). Late last year, he also experimented with offering free downloads for an album he produced with Saul Williams. While he admitted he was a bit “disheartened” that not that many people paid for the album, he also noted how much attention the album got and Saul Williams admitted that it was working out great overall.
Now that Reznor is totally off-label, he’s pulled a bit of a Radiohead, surprising just about everyone by simply announcing his new Nine Inch Nails album on his website and offering a variety of options in how to get it. Given his disappointment with the Saul Williams experiment, perhaps it’s not a surprise that he hasn’t totally embraced the free concept. The album itself is 36 songs, nearly two and a half hours of music — but he’s only offering the first nine songs for free. However, he is offering a variety of choices for people who do want to pay — starting with $5 for a complete download (in a choice of high-quality, DRM-free formats) of all songs plus a 40-page PDF of additional content and a “digital extras pack” with graphics that can be used as wallpaper, icons and anything else.
There are other options as well, reminiscent of other musicians who try to offer reasons why you should spend more. For Reznor, those options include a $10 2-disc CD with 16-page booklet (and all the downloads), a $75 Deluxe Edition which includes the CD, a data DVD with all of the content and a Blu-ray high definition DVD with an accompanying slideshow, and finally, a $300 “Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package” that includes everything in the Deluxe Edition plus a vinyl version of the album, limited edition Giclee prints packaged in a “luxurious package” which will be numbered and signed by Trent (only 2,500 of those are available).
While those options could be improved upon (and only offering up the first nine tracks for free certainly won’t stop the rest from being available online), it’s yet another example of a musician recognizing that a plan that lets fans pick which option is worth it — and making sure to provide real value for the different options — is the wave of the future for business models. I’m also a bit surprised that he didn’t follow the lead of several other musicians in tying the packages to other things, such as live events. Still, it’s another good example of a musician experimenting with important new business models. Update: Two additional points that are worth mentioning. The album has been released under a Creative Commons license and Trent has seeded many bittorrent sites himself with the first nine songs.