Technically that title is erroneous as NIN fans will know that Trent is NIN, accompanied by Josh Freese, Robun Finck and Alessandro Cortini (according to the sleeve credits from The Slip).
When most think about information products or digital products, they think of the ebooks which used to hog eBay listings – but NIN’s The Slip album (together with the entire inventory of iTunes and other digital music marketplaces) are digital inventory too.
With their latest album, NIN have chosen to “give away” the album via a Creative Commons license (although a bunch of merchandise at their “merch” tab at NIN.com looks pretty tempting too…)
Taking a step away from Radiohead and NIN’s previous effort at selling their music online at a fraction of the printed CD package, or asking for a donation, you’re getting The Slip for free – in essence, content becomes free. (I would not be surprised if Trent’s production costs and time cost upwards of $100,000 or more for this).
Which is what online analysts have been saying about online platforms and applications for years. Eventually, a technology-based platform will become commoditized to the extent of being free and you’d pay only for applications that ride on it.
It’s already being practised with cell phone operators. Most time you either get a free cell phone handset or get it at a vastly discounted price, the operator makes up the difference through your monthly subscriptions via a contract of 1-2 years.
Progressive analysts have even said that eventually cell phone service will be free – you merely pay for the applications and data services you use (like the GPS and maps functions mentioned by Todd Crawford and Sam Harrelson in Geekcast 16.
But back to NIN for a moment.
They’ve broken new ground in my eyes for a couple of intiatives.
You’ve not only been given the right to play the tracks however you wish, you have NIN’s blessings to:
- remix it
- share it with your friends,
- post it on your blog,
- play it on your podcast,
- give it to strangers,
Which will undoubtedly viralize the music.
I can still remember listening to NIN’s Pretty Hate Machine in the early 1990s, especially tracks like Head Like A Hole and Down In It. (A number of the tracks (which are pretty hypnotic) appear on the soundtrack of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers – which features “Iron Man” Robert Downey Jr…)
How is NIN going to monetize their intellectual property (ie. the music)?
I think NIN fans are pretty hardcore, and the proceeds from merchandise and concert sales, and likely DVDs, interactive media will more than make up for it.
If NIN has bypassed or disintermediated themselves from the music studios, they’ll certainly have more room to access funds and stay in touch with their fans.
The other techie thing that NIN have done is to release it in a variety of audio formats – besides the ubiquitous MP3, you can also download a lossless FLAC version as well as a high quality 24/96 version.
Lastly, they’re distributing a number of these versions through the Bittorrent Peer-to-peer network, typically used to distribute pirated CD albums.
Could this signal a change in the winds for content distribution via the internet?