Trent Reznor Gives Away New Album As A Completely Free Download

from the plans-to-charge-for-scarce-goods dept

Trent Reznor continues to show that he has a good understanding of the economics of free content. Two months after releasing a new album online, and quickly selling scarce goods that earned him a pretty penny, he’s back offering another new Nine Inch Nails album as a completely free download in a variety of high quality formats. However, it’s not just that. He’s also planning to then sell (scarce) versions of the product as well, in CD and vinyl format for those who want it. And, given his past experiments, it seems likely that he’ll figure out a way to make it worth buying. While Radiohead has basically shown that they just got lucky in picking a random publicity stunt, Trent Reznor has shown that he’s actually really interested in the economics and business models that will work in the online world.

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Comments on “Trent Reznor Gives Away New Album As A Completely Free Download”

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shanoboy (profile) says:

good business

It’s too bad that the record companies don’t start doing this. Fact of the matter is, most people are going to download the album as opposed to buying a physical copy of it.

They could make more money by selling a value added package instead of just losing all their money to piracy or losing most of their money to Itunes.

Brian Walsh (user link) says:

And followed with more scarcity

In addition, they emailed anyone who had purchased the first experiment with an email alerting of not only the free download, but their newly announced tour schedule. In fact, they are “rewarding” fans by opening up the sales 3 days early and limiting the number of tickets, printing the name of the fan on the ticket, and requiring photo id. I wonder if NIN staff reads Techdirt…


Nine Inch Nails is touring the US and Canada this summer. Premium tickets for all NIN headline dates will be made available to registered members in advance of public on sales. Pre sale tickets are personalized with the members legal name printed on the face of the ticket and ID will be required for pickup and entry into the venue on night of show. Pre sale ticket supplies are limited and available on a first come, first serve basis. Our goal is to put the best tickets in the hands of the fans and not in the hands of scalpers and/or brokers. Register at and check the performance page for additional tour updates.
2008 Summer Tour

… list of all the tour dates …

9/5/08 Oakland, CA [Oracle Arena]
Pre Sale: 6/12 (5:00PM)
On Sale: 6/15 (10AM)

barren waste says:

re: post 10

What is a scrobble and how does it relate to the bands popularity?

As for my friends and I, we’ll take NIN over Radiohead anyday.

It is certainly uplifting to see music stars making money off from the new business model Mike has been talking about. Hopefully this will lead to a new “Gold Rush” and the old record companies will die out. That in turn would lead to less financial backing of the copyright laws and we might just be able to get some progress there as well….

Kevin says:


Scrobbling refers to uploading listening statistics to Last.Fm. As they put it, “ is the flagship product from the team that designed the Audioscrobbler music engine. More than ten million times a day, users “scrobble” their tracks to our servers, helping to collectively build the world’s largest social music platform.”

as they say, “The Audioscrobbler system is a massive database that tracks listening habits and calculates relationships and recommendations based on the music people listen to.

After installing an Audioscrobbler plugin for your media player (eg iTunes, Winamp, Amarok) the name of every song you listen to is sent to the Audioscrobbler server and added to your music profile. The Audioscrobbler system powers our main site,, as well as exposing data via webservices so other projects can make interesting things from the data and recommendations we provide.”

When Radiohead released In Rainbows, all ten tracks were the top of’s charts for seven or 8 weeks – impressive, but it must be taken with a grain of salt. The average person doesn’t use audioscrobbler, and those who do may be predisposed to already like Radiohead.

Anonymous Coward says:

I hate to break it to everyone, but Radiohead LOST money on the “pay what you want” deal. THey expected way more people to be honest and at least send them SOMETHING. Most people did not, and this business model is FAIL as far as I can see.

As far as someone’s comment on Radiohead being more popular than NIN, well… get out much?

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I hate to break it to everyone, but Radiohead LOST money on the “pay what you want” deal. THey expected way more people to be honest and at least send them SOMETHING. Most people did not, and this business model is FAIL as far as I can see.

Radiohead admitted they made more money off of the “experiment” than on any previous album.

So… er… no. It was not a failure. They most certainly did not lose money.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ah, FUD. Don’t you love it.

I’ll repeat what Mike’s said – Radiohead confirmed they made MORE money, not less (although they were cagey for a long time with actual figures).

What was actually stated was that they were disappointed by the fact that a lower than expected *percentage* of people paid for the album. Big difference. The fact that they still made so much money proves that the experiment did work – many more people obtained In Rainbows than any other Radiohead album, and they still made a decent profit.

SomeGuy says:

Re: Re:

Well, uhm, what business model would ‘this one’ be? If you think, “I’ll give away my music and hope people, uhm, buy my music,” then yeah, that’ll probably fail for the most part (as notedm, though, In Rainbows made more money than typical, even if Radiohead had expected a greater percentage to pay for it).

But that’s not what Reznor is doing. Based on Ghosts and the curious timing of The Slip in regards to NIN’s release of tour dates and “premium sales to members”, whay Trent is doing is, “I’ll give away my music and sell CDs, art books, vinyl, DVDs, show tickets…” I think he’s got a good thing going here.

cram (profile) says:

The Trent Reznor Community

Hi Mike

Must be one helluva self-congratulatory day for you, what with Trent Reznor going down the free music road once again, and this time with a vengeance. An entire album! Goodness! Maybe it’s a supreme arrogance on Trent’s part, to decide he doesn’t need any label/company/association/marketing arm between him and his fans.

I’m sure he’s going to make a pretty packet from physical media sales as well, especially if it has a lot to offer apart from the music. Though I’m still not convinced this model could work for everyone, or even a sizeable number of bands/performers, it’s a start, and a good one as the middlemen are being cut out. Let’s see how it pans out.

Perhaps Trent could become the center of gravity for all those who want to follow his and (Mike’s) lead. Social networking for the freemusicians.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

@ Mike:

“Radiohead admitted they made more money off of the “experiment” than on any previous album.”


I quote: “In terms of digital income, we’ve made more money out of this record than out of all the other Radiohead albums put together, forever.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s “digital income” not overall income. If you don’t take that sentence out of context, it’s obvious:

“In terms of digital income, we’ve made more money out of this record than out of all the other Radiohead albums put together, forever — in terms of anything on the Net. And that’s nuts. It’s partly due to the fact that EMI wasn’t giving us any money for digital sales. All the contracts signed in a certain era have none of that stuff.”

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