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Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts I – IV

It seems these days thanks to the ease of the Internet, quite a few musicians seems to be jumping ship and also trying new things in terms of music releasing. You could say the first big act to release an album exclusively on the Internet would of been The Smashing Pumpkins, but that was more protest than idea – the record label were giving the band grief.

Then you have Radiohead, whose “pay what you want” idea seems more like a marketing ploy. The website was removed when the official CD was released, and the mp3 quality of the tracks were very substandard.

Trust Trent to do it right.

The wonderful thing about the internet these days is the ease of distribution. Trent has openly discussed his disgust over the state of the record industry. From the pricing of CDs to the control the big companies hold. He recently released Year Zero – Remixed. I haven’t listened to it yet, but that album was partly creative and partly contractual – now Trent Reznor is a free man to do what he wants.

He first started with Saul Williams latest album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! (which he produced). They offered the album free in a a reasonable mp3 format (192 kps) or for top quality mp3/lossless formats for five dollars. That’s right, 5 whole dollars. It was announced at Nin.com that, as of January 2, 2008, two months since its release, 154,449 people had chosen to download NiggyTardust. Of that number, 28,322 people chose to pay the asked price of $5 USD ($141’610 USD Total). In comparison, Saul’s self-titled album has sold 30,000 copies since its release in 2004. Not bad, but to be fair Saul is a newer artist. This is only the beginning of things.

On March 2, The album Ghosts I – IV was released on the Internet. Originally it was meant to be a small EP, by the end became a 36 track instrumental release. Normally I would give an intsrumental CD a miss, but Trent has made some wonderful music without vocals in the past (Quake and the Lost Highway Soundtracks). I’ve only listened to the first half, but it’s brilliant. I said on my twitter account it sounds like a soundtrack to a film that is yet to be written.

The way he’s gone about releasing it is also brilliant. There’s five options.
1 – Download the first EP for nothing. The first 9 tracks are available for zip, and you do not need to put any details at all online.
2 – Digital Release. For $5, you can download the whole album in variety of different file formats. 320 k mp3, lossless and apple lossless. This version also includes some spiffy artwork as jpgs.
3 – CD release. For $10 you can purchase the set on 2 CDs with a 16 page booklet
4 – Deluxe edition For $75 you get the 2xCDs, 1 data DVD containing multitrack files for use with audio editing software, a 48-page hardback book with photographs, and a Blu-ray disc with Ghosts I-IV in high-definition 96 kHz 24-bit stereo and accompanying slideshow.
5 – Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition. For $300, you get all the above and a 4LP vinyl, and two exclusive limited edition Giclée prints for USD$300. Limited to 2,500 pieces, numbered and signed by Trent Reznor.

There are a few problems, however. The shipping for the physical CDs is a little pricey and the website went belly up and has not been keeping up with the amount of traffic generated. I myself got 95% through using a download manager and after a crash was informed that I had exceeded my download limit. I emailed them and they apologized and said they’ll reset my download soon. Since I paid I just downloaded the thing from bittorrent. They can’t say I didn’t pay at all.

Speaking of legal mumbo jumbo, Trent has released these mp3s/music under a The album is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. This means you can do whatever you like with these files. Change them, alter them, send it to your friends as long as you don’t try and make a profit out of it.

According to Trent, this is only the beginning. He’s being rather secretive about some other plans on the way, and he doesn’t mean more music (which he already has said he will). I hope it means more with his own record label. Stay tuned, and if you want to check the album out, click here.

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