Reznor's model works - NIN’s CC-Licensed Best-Selling MP3 Album

nin_ghosts_logo_jan09.pngIn March 2008, Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails released the first part of Ghosts I-IV via BitTorrent, and released all four albums under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. Even though fans could easily get free versions of the album, Ghosts actually went on to become the best-selling album of 2008 on Amazon's MP3 store.

NIN’s Creative Commons licensed Ghosts I-IV has been making lots of headlines these days.

Money and CC music coexist

As Fred Benenson eloquently put on the Creative Commons' blog:

NIN Best Selling MP3 Album

First, there’s the critical acclaim and two Grammy nominations, which testify to the work’s strength as a musical piece. But what has got us really excited is how well the album has done with music fans. Aside from generating over $1.6 million in revenue for NIN in its first week, and hitting #1 on Billboard’s Electronic charts, Last.fm has the album ranked as the 4th-most-listened to album of the year, with over 5,222,525 scrobbles.

Even more exciting, however, is that Ghosts I-IV is ranked the best selling MP3 album of 2008 on Amazon’s MP3 store.

Take a moment and think about that.

NIN fans could have gone to any file sharing network to download the entire CC-BY-NC-SA album legally. Many did, and thousands will continue to do so. So why would fans bother buying files that were identical to the ones on the file sharing networks? One explanation is the convenience and ease of use of NIN and Amazon’s MP3 stores. But another is that fans understood that purchasing MP3s would directly support the music and career of a musician they liked.

The next time someone tries to convince you that releasing music under CC will cannibalize digital sales, remember that Ghosts I-IV broke that rule, and point them here.

The future of Music

As I already stated in the past this is the only viable business model that the music industry should adopt, the only one that's fair to both the fans and the artists, the only one that has a future. Many have pointed out that if you are not a superstar you can't make it work, unless Jamendo can pull out a multimillion € quarter it would seem to be the case. But this thinking is very myopic. The idea of music distribution has to change drastically, the pyramid needs to be inverted: at the top there should be artists and fans, no the record labels. Once a direct relationship is established between the two real players in the game, things will evolve and work out naturally. The equation is simple:

   artists produce good CC music = more people share = people discover new artists =
   = more people go to their concerts = more people support their favourite artist

In theory is very simple. It worked for NIN, let's see if it can work for everyone else.