Trent sez: “Buy all these music formats from meeeeeeeeeee!” Photo: Jenna Foxton.

Artists are known to mouth off a bit about the Future of Music and Digital Distribution and whatnot, but Trent Reznor is putting his money — and not money — where his mouth is.

Nine Inch Nails Menu of Ordering Options for Ghosts I-IV

via Mashable: Practice What You Preach: Nine Inch Nails Gives Away New Album

And they certainly have their bases covered with their new album “Ghosts”:

  • Get the first volume of the album free on torrent sites (or via the NIN site)
  • Pay US$5 for a download of all 36 tracks (take that, Radiohead!)
  • Get a 2 CD box set for US$10 (which also includes immediate full download of the tracks)
  • US$75 gets you the 2 CDs, a data DVD with the digital tracks, and a Blu-Ray disc with 96/24 stereo and accompanying slideshow
  • US$300 Adds four LPs on vinyl, two prints, and Trent’s John Hancock — limited-run 2500 pieces

everyformatI think they should have just kept going. You know, $800 gets you cassette tapes, Pro Tools session files, 8-tracks, surround sound. $50,000 adds an IMAX film (projector not included) and one of those little plastic mini records. $500,000 adds a DIY planetarium show, plus a special Buddha Box edition and a low-power FM radio transmitter so you can self-broadcast the album. $1 million and you get a Jaguar pre-loaded with a specially-signed sound system that plays the album, plus reel-to-reel multitracks. $500 million and Trent comes to your house, brings his studio rig and console, and re-records the album for you in your living room.

Before you assume the downloads are worthless, though, even the torrent file includes PDF “liner notes” and 320 kbps MP3 files. Buy the download and you have an option of either FLAC lossless or Apple Lossless audio — something I know readers here have complained about.

There’s only one problem. The fact that musical superstars are experimenting with various formats amounts to great research into what people may want. But if you’re not a Nine Inch Nails junkie, this is all awfully … well, complicated. For lesser-known artists, it seems like finding just one or two solutions that make most people happy is a better route, and it’s not clear what those are yet.

I’m personally most interested to see how the torrent thing works. Then again, with bandwidth costs plummeting, serving up your own audio — even lossless audio — becomes a viable option for artists and small labels. And so far, the torrent doesn’t seem to be cannibalizing the for-fee options, as NIN’s site says they’re experience high volume of traffic and orders. If enough people spring for the higher-cost options, the free versions may pay for themselves.

  • Yes, but is it any good?

    Nice write-up, Peter.

  • sef

    RE: digital lofi– I'm up to the third track & I'm rather enjoying it so far. It's most similar to 'and all that could have been' but even saying it's similar to that album isn't really that accurate. It's worth a listen.

    RE: Trent's photo: "PREVED!"


  • I tried to buy the two CDs, but the website wasn't having any of it. So I thought I'd just have a go at the freebie for now and try again tomorrow, but no . . .

    So I've turned to torrent sites to get it and grabbed all four since they're there. Why not? I don't feel guilty, I'm still going to order the CDs tomorrow, or whenever the site works again.

  • _object.session

    first let me say, YAY!!!! this is one of the 5 best things that has happened to me in the last 24 hours. (sorry, it has to compete with going to a philip glass concert, hearing philip glass speak, . . . ) personally, as a big nine inch nails fan, this is awesome in so many ways. a full album (double album . . or quadruple EP . .) of instrumental tracks and trent and co. getting to do things their way really means a lot.

    i've only downloaded the free part, but i too will probably download the entire thing on bit torrent and then buy the CDs when things calm down. i think trent will understand. (seriously. he might even expect a lot of people will do that.)

    for those actually interested in making a purchase but not being a big nin fan, i don't think the complexity is such an issue. you just stop reading when the prices go out of your budget. how the media deals with it is a different question. but, yes, i hope that if you are a lesser known artist, you don't try to mss produce copies of your CD for $300. (unless you really know what you're doing.)

  • brad

    I listened to a few tracks and really enjoyed it. I used to be a big NIN fan!! Really, but we broke up when I got older and he stayed the same age.

    This stuff seems really cool, I'll drop the cash for the vinyl when it comes out in April. For now, I'll do the download thing. I wish there was a way to let the artist know that I intend on purchasing it when the physical copies are released. I feel that some people will see it as a failure if a million people download it for free the first week when the physical item is not available yet.

    Go Trent!! Now go write an album about getting older, wiser, and quit telling stories of teenage pain. It's just creepy when you're not anywhere close to being a teenager anymore. You do this and I'll be back on board 100%!!!

  • _object.session

    interesting, brad. i was just thinking this morning about how nine inch nails has grown up with me. (of course, you and i might be different ages.) i can understand why you'd make the opposite observation, as i might have agreed a few years ago. but there's really a lot of development in the nin world in the last few years. kind of actually a clear progression from with teeth to year zero to this . .

  • dlab

    I could barely look at the site after waiting 3-4 mins for it to load. I've only read about it here today, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was getting slashdotted and boingboinged… I plan on downloading the free torrent myself and going for the paid download later. Funny thing is the fact I'm having issues reaching the site almost certainly means I'll have the torrent downloaded in no time…

  • velocipede

    Good goth, Batman! Mr. Reznor continues his quest to modernize and monetize the music industry of industrial muzak. Time to upgrade the speakers in the Batmobile, but first we must find this torrent of bats that everyone is talking about!

  • s02

    funny article peter!

  • Bought the 2xCD format at 4am… Tried to download my FLAC and it failed.

  • Really diggin' the new instrumentals…

  • bliss

    Peter, yet again you've had me in stitches! 🙂

  • nips

    The site has now been hammered into the ground and downloads has gone offline for a few hours to get fixed.

    …And to brad, i think they(he?) really have matured through with teeth and definitely with the year zero concept. What I've heard of ghosts so far is a trip, far beyond anyone in his position would normally get away with. Hope you enjoy!

  • stepwriterun

    I think it's kind of cool that he's making the multitrack files available too. Now anybody can bang out a grindhouse remix of this stuff in their favorite DAW.

  • _object.session

    word is that the server issue should be fixed by tomorrow morning . . .

  • brad

    I secretly cheer him on, but With Teeth just . . . . um . . . . ehhhh . . . . and the tour for that was terrible. We were so excited and all of us walked out. It was like he didn't even believe the things that were coming out of his mouth. They played the three worst songs he's ever written in a row!!! In front of people!!! We just couldn't handle it. I honestly never gave Year Zero a chance. The title was just too corny. I'll just keep hunting for a replacement Broken and Pretty Hate Machine on vinyl. I'm old.


    This new one is insrumentals. . . . his music and sound design have always been spot on, so I have no doubts about this being a stellar piece to listen to.

  • I bought the album but had to resort to torrents to get the full thing. I think the album is excellent. Jsut my sort of music. I much prefer instrumentals and this is spot on. his best album since Fragile in my opinion.


  • manuel

    "We have SOLD OUT of the 2500 Limited Edition Packages."


  • brett w

    This is my first foray into the "buy directly from the artist thing." None of the previous albums really interested me, but NIN sure does. They've taught me one thing…

    buying direct is a big PITA.

    My download link still doesn't work, despite a "everything's back to normal" message on the front page. The blog comments tell me i'm not anywhere near alone with website problems.

    Communication is a vital part of customer service. Even a simple "we're aware of the problem, and trying to get it resolved." goes a long way.

    I'm sure i'll enjoy someday when i can listen to it…whenever that is.

  • I really want those PRO TOOLS sessions…


    (the ultimate digital music freedom)

  • poopoo

    There is some great synth pron in the liner notes pdf thingy. I'll be interested to hear if the free mp3's are the filler or the killer from the full 36 tracks.

  • Kyran

    I'm not a big NIN fan, but I must say that the free tracks really impressed me. I'll probably shelve out for the double album on CD in time to come.

    I probably wouldn't have listened to two tracks if it would have been a normal release.

    (I also checked out the Saul Williams album some time ago, and didn't like it, so I didn't buy it)

  • The album is, IMHO, some of his best work ever. I bought the 2xCD and downloaded the 320kbps MP3s. The tracks all feel very spontaneous and jammy, less of the over-wrought sound design wanking that made Year Zero hard to take in some places, but still amazing sounds. Just the right mix, IMHO.

    Based on Trent's explanation of this album, these results were exactly what he aimed for: jam for 10 weeks, release everything that we record.


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  • those tracks were pretty cool – the free ones – I may pay for the actual album (well the $5 download version anyhow… ) still its $5 they would have NEVER made from me otherwise!


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