Amazon's Best Selling MP3 Album For 2008 Was Available Legally For Free

from the give-people-a-reason-to-buy dept

As some of you may know, in a week and a half I’m giving a presentation at the music industry MidemNet conference, focusing on how Trent Reznor’s various business model experiments highlight the future of the music industry. I’ll be putting the final touches on my presentation this week, and it’s great to find one additional data point: the top selling MP3 download on Amazon last year was Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV album, which you probably know Reznor put under a pretty open Creative Commons license (and even gave away a bunch of the tracks himself). In other words, you could go on pretty much any file sharing system out there and legally download the music for personal use… and yet it was still the top selling downloadable album (this is on top of all the money earned by Reznor’s other business models associated with this album). Certainly puts a nice little cherry on top of the theme of my presentation.

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Companies: amazon

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Comments on “Amazon's Best Selling MP3 Album For 2008 Was Available Legally For Free”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Small Minds

The problem is that the small minds that run so many modern businesses still see every “free” download as lost revenue. Some people will undoubtedly argue that the album would have sold twice as many copies if it hadn’t been available for free.

The idea that the album might have sold so many copies BECAUSE it was also free is a concept that is beyond the mental capacity of the legalistic bean-counter minds that run too many major businesses.

Twinrova says:

This is EXCELLENT news!

I’m sure Trent’s one happy customer and it’s nice to see him showing the recording industry there are other ways and still be profitable.

The only downside to this is the mention of Amazon. Now, I love Amazon. I go there first when doing online shopping. However, I’ve not purchased music from the site because it’s $0.99.

Distribution costs for an MP3 are extremely low, especially given all a buyer’s doing is copying the damn thing, so in reality, there is no distribution.

So why the inflated price? Bogus bull. I do know, as a store, Amazon (et al) should get some revenue for hosting, but between the artist and the hosting, it should not come to $0.99.

Until this price comes down, I’ll search elsewhere for my music. I don’t care how “valuable” the song is to most people. I’d rather pay $1 to support 4 artists than $1 to support one, leaving the other 3 out.

SomeGuy says:

Re: This is EXCELLENT news!

A valid point, but… -shrugs- If someone else can sell music at $0.25 and be profitable, they will. It would be better exposure for artists, sure, but so would ‘selling’ music for $0. As it stands, most people (myself included) don’t seem to have a problem with paying $1 for an mp3, and if there’s no problem, why fix it?

It is excellent news, though as someone above noted, I’m skeptical that anyone will look at it and not think “but imagine how much they would have made if they got paid for all of it,” completely missing the fact that being freely avalable drove many if not most of those sales.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This is EXCELLENT news!

Someone can and does sell for as low as $.25. They are called eMusic.

Of course it’s all independent labels, no major labels, but here’s just some of the bands/artist with independent releases: Charlie Daniels Band, James Taylor, Bob Marley, Dolly Parton, Credence Clearwater Revival, Aretha Franklin, Sevendust, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Miles Davis, Offspring, Moby, Gravity Kills, Manowar, Willie Nelson, Apocalyptica (no not their recent album unfortunately), lil Wayne, lil John, Ludacris, you know bands people have never heard of heh (admittedly some of these bands more commercial successes were on major label albums and not available here, but generally good stuff nonetheless and a trove of gems you might not have heard before).

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re: Re: This is EXCELLENT news!

I am sure Mike already included the idea in his presentation that many people bought it because they could listen to it for free. Whether the audience grasps that is up to them. But I do not think Mike would overlook that, as he has mentioned it in his blog posts many a time. Heck, he could even quote us 😉

Matt says:

Re: This is EXCELLENT news!

Eh, 99 cents is a good and a bad thing. We have apple to thank for breaking the 1$ plus mark for songs in some instances, but it’s still high. At some point around the 25-30 cent mark people will buy em but 99 cents is indeed quite high. 12 song album/12$ which in reality more than 10$ is markup? I’m not asking for 10 cent songs but let’s get real.

Jimbo says:

I refuse to give any money to major record labels. I have found many major label titles that I enjoy at second hand stores and I still continue to buy music brand new from indie labels that don’t sue people. So screw you RIAA. The band NOFX had a really good song about the recording industry called Dinosaurs Will Die. I suggest that you guys should check it out.

Bob (user link) says:


That’s great news about the album, I just gave a talk in New Zealand about the exact same subject but this news broke just to late to include it in my speech which was a shame, but still when you have all the other great examples like radiohead etc, I think I still managed to nail it or at least get my point across and silence some of those disbelievers!

Mike will there be a video or anything we could see of your presentation? I’d very interesting in hearing it! 🙂

Commonsense2009 says:

You get what you pay for

Amazon posted a profit for the last quarter, when you do the math, it was 3.6%. So selling MP3’s for 99 cents, they walked away with 3.6 cents net profit. In business standards, that is poor, you want 5 – 8 % minimum or you are doing something wrong.

Onm top of that, there are other costs hidden like the cost to maintain staff / buildings / water / sewer / servers / lawyers and to pay the artist.

But you argument that they are all making a lot of money at 99 cents a wong, it is without merit and anyone giving it away free is looking to creat a demand that they can use in the future to sell. So while I would love to have everything for free, there is always a price, maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday.
Free never is and when it isn’t about the money, its about the money. It is always about money.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

Re: You get what you pay for

Commonsense2009 wrote:

Amazon posted a profit for the last quarter, when you do the math, it was 3.6%. So selling MP3’s for 99 cents, they walked away with 3.6 cents net profit. In business standards, that is poor…

Sure. And Apple’s iTunes Store is the same—doesnt’t bring in much profit for Apple at all. The record labels insist on grabbing the lion’s share of it. And the artists? They get even less. That’s why selling recordings is a dead-end business.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Same here. Directly from his site I ordered, after downloading it. Although, even though we got the link to download it all because we bought it, my link messed up (I would very much so assume due to the release date demand) and I couldn’t get back in. This happened to countless people because his servers were hit so hard. The result, he released it on a torrent for us and told us to just download it from the torrent. Loves us indeed. Somebody *cough cough* also loves us enough to have released Halo 12 – Closure on DVD through a torrent, even though Trent and the label who owns some rights to it could not come to an agreement, so it was never released on DVD. Had to download that. Its nice to have the DVD since Closure really is the only VHS I own, so I do not own a VHS player.

Did the same thing with The Slip even though he released it to begin with entirely free. Still bought it just because I collect them by this point.

Mojo (user link) says:

$1 a song is very fair, but it does become pricey when you are talking about bulk. I think most people agree that CDs would still have some life in them if they were capped at $10 (this should have happened a long time ago), so online albums should probably be capped at $10 too, despite how many songs are on there.

Many “quirky” artists might have a bunch of short songs or riffs that still count as a track, but I don’t think anyone would pay $1 for the “Her Majesty” from Abbey Road.

On the other hand, artists like Tangerine Dream only have two or four long songs on an entire album, so clearly a sliding price structure in needed.

But $1 for the random track here and there is totally fair. Maybe you can get extra value by including remixes, or charging $1 for the track but $2 for the full CD single, which would include multiple versions of the track.

Anonymous Coward says:

DRM free but do Amazon's MP3s contain watermarks

Amazon (and now Apple) are selling DRM free MP3s, but do they contain watermarks? I have looked online for the information but have not found it. The question comes up as to why the recording industry appears to be coming around to DRM free music. Is it because 1) they believe in the alternative business models such as we see from Trent 2) because they are digitally watermarking the DRM free music in plans to go after the original purchasers of the songs, more easily, if they are found shared online.

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