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January 05, 2009

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Sean

Hmm... any chance they have this album mixed up with The Slip, which also came out this year and was completely free?

When Ghosts was released, I thouht only the first nine (of 36) songs were free. The rest was for sale, although obviously as with any album you could find it free on filesharing networks.

Ghosts was released under CC allowing anyone to rework or remix the material non-commercially, but I don't believe that's the same as saying it was free... is it?

Chris Anderson

Sean,

Not according to the original announcement, which said the album was released under a BY-NC-SA license, which allows free copying:

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/us/

Follow the links above for the announcement at the time.

Kevin Arthur

They only make 9 of 36 tracks available for download on the NIN site, so it's not exactly like they're promoting the giveaway (at least I don't see the whole thing available anywhere on there, and in comparison they do prominently show that The Slip is a free download). You'd have to read the CC blog or know of legaltorrents to think Ghosts was a free download. I think everyone else (which is most people) would assume you have to buy it and since it's only $5 they wouldn't see that as a burden. So I don't think this example does much to support the "free" argument...

Joe | A New Band A Day.com

I think this is fairly heartening news. There are always going to be people who will just download Gigs of music that they would never have bought from a shop if downloading wasn't an option, so I'm not sure if their actions are really lost sales or not.

The people who really want their favourite artits to have their fiscal support will probably do so. Even if the band in question is probably already bathing in champagne and sleeping on beds made of bundles of cash...

Sean

@Kevin, that's exactly it, is an album still "free" if 99% of the audience doesn't know it?

I wonder how other "free" albums did on Amazon. Girl Talk's "Feed the Animals" was a pay-what-you-want model, and Saul Williams "Niggy Tardust" was similar. I don't see either in the Top 100, but then again neither artist has the name recognition of NIN.

I remember there was some disappointment over how many people were choosing to pay nothing for Williams' album, but that was early on. Did it turn out to be successful?

Adam

I admit part of me wonders if the purchasers were unaware--with $5 being such a low price for 36 songs, it may not have been worth their effort to see if there were any better deals elsewhere.

Still...I find it hard to believe that in this day an age info about the free versions would not get out, especially among fans.

Trendy Jewelry

Was an awesome album too-Ghost, that is.

L, http://www.uniquechicjewelry.com

Marcelo

Great Blog. Congratulations!

Att,
Marcelo

KR

Many years ago, there were a bunch of people that burned money and called it business. It even had a fancy name-DotComs. They all went bust except those that did really care about making some money while burning it. Some gave away a ton of free stuff to make money out of ads, others made money off brokerage...the point being that only those had a way of making money survived.
Musicians who give away songs for free will NOT survive unless there is a distinct way of making money some other way...head banging bobble head dolls perhaps. As an investor, I won't invest in a group that only gives their songs away.
So this group being number 1 (assuming it is truly free and not $5 free) should by no means be an example to suggest that an industry that is built on giving away intellectual property for free is sustainable.

Chris Anderson

@KR: I take it from your response that you don't believe in the media industry (we give away our content for free, supported by advertising) or, for that matter, open source.

Eben Carlson

It's not best selling--it's best given. Creative commons isn't anything new--artists can give their work away under existing copyight laws.

ITunes announced today the introduction of variable pricing for songs. This is the beginning of the premium content revolution. Starting in April, the best songs will be $1.29. Very soon there will be premium--more expensive--songs, movies, DVDs, magazines, etc. Content will be price differentiated by quality and demand just like cars, ball bearings and financial services.

The tail isn't going to make any real money once content producers can differentiate themselves with quality and charge a premium. Lots more about it at www.whiteg.com

Premium content--you heard it here first. Would you rather work at a mechanized warehouse for pennies a unit (or free) or a creative studio for dollars a unit and a lifetime of royalties?

KR

@KR: I take it from your response that you don't believe in the media industry (we give away our content for free, supported by advertising) or, for that matter, open source.

Oh I completely agree: the ONLY ones who survived were the ones that gave content away for free while making money from ads or gave code away for free to make money from support services. My gripe is against touting that giving away music entirely for free, with no strategy of making money out of it elsewhere, is optimal.

Chris Anderson

@KR. Yes, giving away music without a way of making money is not a revenue-maximizing strategy ;-) But then again, that's not what we're talking about here. NIN had plenty of ways to make money, from premium version of the recorded music to tours to merch. If nothing else, giving away music as free marketing for a tour is something many bands already do (see MySpace)

KR

Am glad we agree that free music (perfectly free music) is not revenue maximizing. :) So now we only need to agree that the novelty of this news article is that it is that the industry is 'music'. Because this business model has existed in other industries for a long while...the razor, the printer, the pod coffee machine. Agree? or am I still the Luddite?

Eben Carlson

I just think that free content produces better ads and that paid content produces better content.

Plus ads don't work well on sophisticated, mature, affluent customers and so they don't get any content made for them in a free system. Culture is way too important an industry to leave as an economic afterthought.

Once people realize what "getting it cheap" really costs, premium culture will rise. As the Apple move and cable television shows, it is already on the move. Free will be left to fanboys and other Mountain Dew addled teenagers with enough time to sift through mountains of free crap and ads for one halfway decent song.

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Adam

I just think that free content produces better ads and that paid content produces better content.

So Emily Dickinson, whose poetry wasn't really discovered until after she died, produced nothing but sub-par content because she wasn't paid for it?

And The Real World on MTV is more likely to provide better content, because a lot of money changes hands?

And music by Britney Spears is likely to be better than music by Mozart, since the former's music is protected by copyright laws and the latter was not paid a dime when someone else performed his music?

Art is art. Don't get tangled up in these ridiculous, soulless economic explanations for how "quality content" gets created.

Stephen at Pay Attention put it best:

Professional success as an actor, writer, or musician has long meant perseverance over rejection and the willingness to work hard and play the game well. I admire this perseverance, but it’s often orthogonal to the quality of the art produced.

Sean

Reznor has released more free content today. This time it's 400 GB of HD footage from three concert shows, with a not-so-subtle encouragement to fans to use it to create their own DVDs and other projects.

http://forum.nin.com/bb/read.php?18,378166

erik

"As an investor, I won't invest in a group that only gives their songs away."

Thankfully it seems many bands have no need for parasites.

"Free will be left to fanboys and other Mountain Dew addled teenagers with enough time to sift through mountains of free crap and ads for one halfway decent song."

personally i would rather buy a record from a person who makes music because its his passion than from a person who makes music for making money.

sarah

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
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Scott

I'm not a big NIN fan, but still wanted to chime in on the "freemium" music thread. NIN still has benefit of a huge fan-base that was enhanced by the pre-internet (hit-maker) media structure, so giving away a portion of their album "free" is more like an enticement to non-p2p savvy fans to go the comfortably legit route to get the full album - purchase. Using your lingo, NIN were already in 'the head'.

All in all, it's good marketing so good for them. I'm happy that it's Trent and not Britney. I'm hoping it's good music too, will be checking it out at some point.

FYI Chris: what's the number one thing that's brought me - salivating - back into the record stores after buying virtually no CDs between 2001 and 2007? www.pandora.com

Thanks for the blog and everyone's comments.

Henry Swanson

Pay NIN to listen to its toothless, luke-warm "I'm just like you - another angst-ridden millionaire rock star" lyrics and self-stroking power ego-chords? Go stoke my long tail. NIN=Coldplay. All hail the emperor's new leather hot pants! (Dogs share their turds with everyone on the street - just because it's 'free'TM doesn't mean we've entered some new enlightened age of sharing and caring.)

"God money don't want everything he wants it all
You're going to get what you deserve
You know who you are."

Ooh, scary. (Once again, irony is outlawed in favor of the almighty e-dollar ass-grab..)

Roman Pixell

I think that the NIN example is interesting, but not to serve as a general example. NIN is a well-known, reputed, popular mega group with millions of fans. Once you pass a tipping point, you CAN make money out of free(mium), but it's not a killer strategy for everyone.

/ ®

Linda

Can't help it, i don't see it as free!
At all.

Jeff Paul Scam

I purchased some books and cds on internet marketing and implemented the techniques in a couple of my websites. However I somewhat feel that I’m making some mistakes somewhere that is harming my traffic

El kouahy

okey they did 1.6 million , but i think that would have made much more if it wasn't free , the thing is that it was the first time and it' a new concept , but if all the bands did the same, they wouldn't have made as much money as they did

CSK001

Hi,

Such a nice stuff.

CSK
workout programs

Andrew Luke

Its free? Pronounced free: Lifting the illegality of owning a copy without having paid for it. Distributed free? 9/36 tracks and a full pdf on free download. If my friend buys a copy then the band gets his money and we can invest in burning a copy up for myself.

Thats forward thinking. I like the cut of their jib.

David

Once people realize what "getting it cheap" really costs, premium culture will rise. As the Apple move and cable television shows

David From the Deeper Voice Blog

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wooo. nin. now we just need aic to win best cd and i will be happy.

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Tidbits

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

FREE was available in all digital forms--ebook, web book, and audiobook--for free shortly after the hardcover was published on July 7th. The ebook and web book were free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged MP3 audiobook (get zip file here) will remain free forever, available in all regions.

Order the hardcover now!