Having successfully downloaded and listened through Nine Inch Nails‘ ‘Ghosts I-IV‘ I’ve been thinking over the potential for the business model pursued by Reznor with this instrumental album.
There’s no doubt that selling digital downloads for $5 and CDs for $10 will attract a lot of interest from fans – as will the higher-end packages for those in the ‘hardcore’ category* – but there’s another possible outcome of the release that could prove even more lucrative than all commercial sales combined.
Over thirty years ago producer Brian Eno made an album entitled ‘Music for Films‘, releasing a further two volumes of the project later on in his career.
The original release by Eno was purely promotional, with just 500 copies being made and each one going to various film-makers to see if they’d be interested in adding some of the tracks within to their next film. If the film-maker liked it, they’d get back to Eno and discuss terms.
It’s unlikely that this potential revenue stream is not part of Reznor’s plans for Ghosts. He’s no stranger to soundtracks and many if not most of Ghosts I-IV‘s tracks would find themselves at home on a film or TV soundtrack. Where in the past an artist/producer like Reznor might have a hard time getting a film-maker’s attention for any suitable tracks they might have, what this release does is put the music as “out there” as possible. Now if someone likes a track, they can just come back with the details and arrange the royalty contract.
Interestingly the songs have been released under a Creative Commons licence which allows the free non-commercial use of the music; this means that if a student makes a college documentary or I want to add that little something to a free podcast I’m making, I can pick any part of any one of the 36 tracks on the album. All this does is make the album’s best tracks all the more visible (or audible) to the audience and, in turn, those always on the look-out for soundtrack content.
* theninhotline.net tells us that all 2,500 copies of the $300 Ultra-Deluxe Edition have now been sold. Doing the maths, that means that through just one of the four release options made available Reznor has already generated $750,000 in turnover – although it’s impossible to know how much of that would come back to him as pure profit.