Nine Inch Nails Gives Music Away On Web - InformationWeek

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Nine Inch Nails Gives Music Away On Web

Music from the band's latest album, "Ghosts I-IV," is available through their Web site in packages ranging from free to $300.

Trent Reznor, leader of the rock band Nine Inch Nails, is the latest major artist to bypass major record labels and distribute his music over the Web. He is offering a portion of his new album for free, along with options for buying the whole work and other content, with packages running from $5 to $300.

Reznor and the band cut ties with their record label, Interscope, with the expiration of their contract in October. Reznor said at the time that, after being under recording contracts for 18 years, "it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate," according to Billboard.com.

Reznor's new business model is reflected in the band's latest album, Ghosts I-IV. The collection of 36 tracks went on sale Sunday on the band's Web site. Options include the free download of the first nine tracks in "high-quality" MP3 format that has no copyright protection technology. For $5, a buyer can download the whole album, along with a 40-page PDF file of related content. Starting April 8, the band will offer to ship a two-CD set with a 16-page booklet for $10.

For fans with more cash to spend, there's a $75 deluxe edition package that includes two audio CDs, a DVD, and a Blu-ray disc with the album in high-definition stereo and a slideshow. Finally, for $300, a person can get everything in the deluxe edition, plus a four-LP vinyl set in a fabric slipcase, and two limited edition prints numbered and signed by Reznor. The latter "ultra-deluxe" edition is limited to 2,500 people and is scheduled to start shipping May 1.

Major bands with their own loyal followings are beginning to bypass record labels in music distribution. In October, the British band Radiohead offered its latest album, In Rainbows, as a digital download with no fixed price or copy protection. Fans could pay whatever they wanted.

The band did not release the number of downloads or the average price fans paid, but said it considered the experiment a success. Radiohead, which ended its contract with label EMI before producing the album, stopped offering the work for free after it was released on CD to record stores by a smaller independent label.

In marketing NIN's 2007 album, Year Zero, Reznor and the band used Internet scavenger hunts and concert giveaways to build buzz. The latter included planting USB drives with music from the album in bathrooms. Found by fans, the song files were soon available on a variety of Web sites. While the promotion had Reznor's blessing, the Recording Industry Association of America sent e-mails to sites demanding they remove the MP3s, Reuters news agency reported.

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