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Trent Reznor's revolution
While I'm not a huge fan of Nine Inch Nails' music, I love the way the last several albums have been distributed. I blogged about the exciting viral marketing campaign for Year Zero, but I haven't mentioned the far more significant news of the two releases that followed it.
You may have heard that earlier this year Nine Inch Nails (or Trent Reznor--I'll be using the two more or less interchangeably) released Ghosts I-IV for free on the internet. Following Radiohead's pay-what-you-want album, this release received much less attention in the press, even though Trent Reznor gave fans higher-quality audio files through his cooperation with bit torrent clients.
It may have been easy to overlook Ghosts I-IV because it didn't feel like a traditional album: it's a collection of instrumental pieces that probably wouldn't have been at all successful if released in a traditional medium.
But this past week Nine Inch Nails announced yet another release, and this time it's a more traditional, 10-track album with vocals and everything. Once again, it's given to everyone for free online, and in multiple high-quality formats.
All of this is pretty exciting, coming from a successful, high-profile artist. Yet I think the biggest news about this album is a detail that most people have overlooked. Both Ghosts I-IV and The Slip are released under a Creative Commons License. In other words, fans can not only download the music for free, but they can also freely distribute it, perform it, sample it, remix it, or incorporate it into any other work (This American Life has used music from Ghosts in two of their shows). The only conditions are that the original artist is credited and that the derived work is noncommercial and released with a similar license.
To understand the significance of this, consider what has been happening in our culture with music recently. In an attempt to reign in filesharing and to increase profits, music distributors have been claiming stringent control over what is done with music after it has been purchased. Fans are told they are not free to copy music for their own personal use or even rip CDs to an mp3 player. Coffee shops are getting in trouble for playing music in their stores without permission. There is talk of charging radio stations for each song they play.
While the mainstream music distributors are pushing toward greater limits on what consumers do with music, Trent Reznor has come along and given permission to not only download his albums, but to use them for any non-commercial purpose, completely free of charge.
So while Radiohead gets the big headlines for a one-time free album download (and they'll always be my personal favorite band), Nine Inch Nails deserves the real credit for leading the way to a whole new way of distributing and licensing music.
It is so weird. I was downloading Ghosts I and The Slip, when Melanie came home, logged into her computer, and said, “When does Kyle have time to write these long posts??”
When my downloads finished, I typed in your blog url, and wow, what a coincidence! I was thinking as I downloaded them, “It’s weird that no one on brendoman has mentioned this yet.” So there you are.
I have yet to listen to them, maybe tomorrow, but it is pretty cool he is doing this.
I feel like I really don’t have time to write long posts anymore. I’ve been pretty busy with work, helping with Daniel, and spending time with Erika.
The only reason I had time to write this post is that I took the week off for Eva’s birth, we just came home from the hospital today, and Erika and the kids were all taking a nap at the same time.
I also had composed most of this post in my head while sitting up with Eva last night, and all I had to do was sit down and type it.
You should have been napping too!
I was, but the phone rang and then I couldn’t get back to sleep.