Why Trent Reznor is winning

Trent Reznor gets it. The latest Nine Inch Nails album — The Slip — has been released online and it’s available entirely at no cost. It’s also, once again, licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license (almost free); the multi-tracks are available here. Reznor announces the album on his blog: “thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years – this one’s on me.”

the music is available in a variety of formats including high-quality MP3, FLAC or M4A lossless at CD quality and even higher-than-CD quality 24/96 WAVE. your link will include all options – all free. all downloads include a PDF with artwork and credits.

for those of you interested in physical products, fear not. we plan to make a version of this release available on CD and vinyl in july. details coming soon.

(I took the FLAC audio this time, a free loseless CD-quality format. I can re-encode that to Ogg Vorbis (or MP3) without losing any quality, so it’s better for long-term storage.)

This is great marketing. Quite frankly, I wasn’t a huge Nine Inch Nails fan in the past. I’d liked what I heard, but I hadn’t heard much. Now, I have The Slip and Ghosts I and I’m on the verge of buying concert tickets for their August performance in Toronto. By making their music freely available, they’ve reached people like me who might not have otherwise listened to it.

I couldn’t help but think of musicians like Trent Reznor when reading one of Matt Asay’s blog posts earlier today, Why Apple and Google are winning.

Asay argues that Google and Apple have found their success by placing their emphasis on pleasing the user first. Apple strives to make computing pleasant, which is why it’s been making in roads into the enterprise without even really trying. Google beat out Yahoo! and Microsoft in the search engine space by focusing or delivering relevant content to the user, rather than filling up every little space with flashy ads and celebrity gossip.

This is placing the focus on adoption first, on providing an experience that people enjoy, rather than squeezing every last penny out of them. When I read this, I thought immediately that this is what musicians should be doing. It should be about music, about nurturing a fan base and creating genuine and lasting relationships. That makes much more economic sense in the long run than chastising your fans for sharing your music ever could.

Trent Reznor is winning because this is what he’s doing.

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