Today Nine Inch Nails singer Trent Reznor posted on his site the results of his Radiohead-like experiment in giving away/selling the album of his protege, Saul Williams. The deal was that you could get a medium-quality 192k MP3 version of the album ("The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust") for free or pay $5 for a higher-quality version.
Reznor says he's "disheartened" that a bit less than 20% of the 154,449 who have downloaded the album since it was released a few weeks ago paid the $5.
So let's do the math: 28,322 people times $5 = $141,610
In the same issue of Wired where we interviewed Reznor about this experiment, David Byrne ran the numbers on traditional music publishing. He reports that for a $16 CD, the artists should expect to get $1.60. Reznor notes that Williams' previous record was released in 2004 and has sold 33,897 copies. So for that previous album, Williams personally made $54,235.
But in the direct download model, which bypasses label distribution, the artist can keep everything, as Radiohead did. I don't know how Reznor and Williams are splitting the money, but between them they made $142,000 this time, some two-and-a-half times more than Williams did last time.
What's so disheartening about that?