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.