Posted March 3, 2008 4:28 pm by with 17 comments

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Five months ago, Radiohead released their latest album, In Rainbows, exclusively as a pay-as-you-feel download from their website (well, okay, you could also order it from their website as a discobox edition which came with a bunch of extras and a set price). Since then, we’ve seen a little in the way of digital music sales experimentation.

Now Nine Inch Nails is joining Radiohead in the downloadable album arena (though it should be noted that In Rainbows is now being sold “traditionally”). The latest NIN album, Ghosts I-IV was released last night and the site was quickly mobbed.

Nine Inch Nails are offering a variety of download options—perhaps too many options. paidContent reports the features of the latest experiment in digital music pricing (via Idolator):

  • Free downloads of the first nine tracks from the Ghosts I-IV collection as DRM-free MP3s, plus the 40-page PDF.
  • $5 download: All 36 tracks in a variety of digital formats, plus a 40-page PDF.
  • $10 two-disc set: A double-disc set, packaged in a Digipak with a 16-page booklet, to be shipped on April 8. Includes immediate download of album.
  • $75 deluxe edition: Ghosts I-IV in a “hardcover fabric slipcase containing two audio CDs, one data DVD with all tracks in multi-track format, and a Blu-Ray disc of Ghosts I-IV. Ships May 1. Includes immediate download of album.
  • $300 “ultra-deluxe limited edition package”: Deluxe edition plus a four-LP set on 180-gram vinyl, which is packaged in a fabric slipcase. Two limited-edition Giclee prints are included; package is numbered and signed by Trent Reznor. Limited to a run of 2500, and one piece per customer. Ships May 1 and includes immediate download.

The album is also live on Amazon, as yet the only “store” to carry it. Like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails’s contract with its label is expired and they’re trying this tack for direct sales instead.

If I were a NIN fan, I would totally jump at this, and probably spring for the $10 option. Where else are you going to get a two CD set for $10? But are there too many options here? Will the number of options overwhelm “shoppers”? And will the offering of a quarter of the music for free downloads, without DRM, make people more or less likely to pay for more?

  • PS3

    $5 (or £10 in Great British pounds!) is a bargain for 36 tracks, especially if those a DRM free.

    Not that I am a massive fan of the music. I just like the idea that making music affordable should help alleviate (albeit probably never stop) illegal downloads.

    Hopefully the band will also see most of the $5.

  • I was expecting something on the recent global warming battle. PS3, you sure its not £5? 🙂

  • Jordan McCollum

    Unless NIN is trying to really experiment with pricing (and charge exorbitant “shipping” to Britain), I’m pretty sure that would be £2.50.

  • I believe Radiohead actually ended up making more money on their latest album than the one before that which just goes to show the technique is not totally dumb. A lot of this could be attributed to the huge amount of press coverage regarding the concept.

  • Now this is cool. A trend taking off. Thanks for highlighting.

  • It does seem like a lot of options. It might have made more sense to offer one or two and then provide the other offers sometime later.

    I think we’re going to see more bands taking or testing the approach of selling on their own. Take away the cut of the record company and they don’t need to sell nearly as much. And bands have always made more money on live concerts than album sales.

    They could give away the music to sell more tickets and come out ahead.

  • More options seems like a god idea. People can choose the price bracket that suits them. People are so used to shopping online, I doubt some extra pricing options would overwhelm anyone.

  • I like the fact that it’s becoming more and more realistic to think of an artist or band taking over a greater portion of the distribution duties. It seems like a great opportunity for someone to start a label that provides fewer services and takes a smaller cut. Now that you don’t necessarily have to get into every Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and fye in the country to succeed, things are definitely looking up for the artist.

  • Radiohead is amazing, and I’m proud to say that I own In Rainbows. I loved the fact that they set it up as a pay what you feel its worth. I wonder what’s the most they recieved for one copy?

  • I think this idea will change the way the industry works. I love it.

  • I’ll take a shot on DRM-free MP3s.

  • I’m really glad you’ve been discussing the msuic industry here on MP – it really backs up what I’m doing. NIN and Radiohead are really showing the world hoe it’s done!

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  • I really like this album. It may be my favorite NIN yet. It’s very ambient… Very Brian Eno inspired. Personally the vocals/lyrics of NIN puts me off from listening to a lot of them. I think the music/production is often genius but the vocals/lyrics lagging behind. So an instrumental NIN album works well for me. And yes, I love what they (and Radiohead) are doing as far bypassing the record labels. This is the future.

    Mr. Music’s last blog post..Radiohead On Conan O?Brien Last Night

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