As most people (certainly any respecting Nine Inch Nails fan) know, NIN offered their latest album “The Slip” free for download on the Internet. Trent and the rest of NIN encouraged you to download, remix, share, etc. what they offered. After the success of Radiohead’s similar concept, NIN was ready to try it with their own work rather than that of someone they produced, such as Saul Williams’ album “The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust.”
First, check out the cool data mapping representing downloads of their latest album according to geographic region: (click images for biggie size)
(If you have Google Earth installed, you can download the KML file.)
While Trent Reznor was clearly upset at the outcome of offering Saul’s album to the public with a chance for fans to pay or download for free – it wasn’t all that surprising. Most die-hard NIN fans had never heard of Saul Williams. Why would they pay for an album from an artist they’ve never heard of? It felt like a gimmick everyone is used to. You hear 1 good song on the radio, buy the album and instantly become disappointed that the only good song was the one you heard on the radio. You just paid $15 bucks for 1 song. I believe that is why most people didn’t opt to pay (contribute) to their free download.
However, it’s a different story with a band such as NIN with a long standing fan-base and a lot of creditability on their side. I don’t believe profit numbers have been made public as of yet (over 1,400,000 people downloaded “The Slip”), so at this point I can only speculate. While NIN’s latest album and release approach may not have beaten Radiohead’s numbers, I’m willing to bet it was a relatively positive result that would encourage Trent to continue this style of release.