Image courtesy Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails’ four-part album “Ghosts I-IV” took the crown in Amazon’s 2008 sales ranking for mp3 albums. Taking into account that Amazon’s mp3 store positioned itself against iTunes in terms of revenue, this placement would mean a considerable earning on the band’s side. What makes this interesting is the fact that the very same album was released for free under a Creative Commons license directly from the band’s website. However, people chose to pay for this album. This may seem special, but considering basically all music is still available for free illegally, the same could be said for almost every sale of an mp3 album. People choose to pay because they value the artistic work and the convenience offered by second-generation online stores like Amazon and Beatport. DRM-free offerings may play a significant role in this.
Nine Inch Nails apparently understood this and took the straight approach: Don’t make free downloads illegal; those downloaders are still your fans, and they may well pay for a concert. Maybe because they were given the free option, so many people felt enticed to pay for the download in the end.
Via Chris Anderson’s Long Tail Blog
As the “music only release” business model becomes more and more unattractive, especially when a physical medium is involved, the year 2009 may bring a lot of success stories around interactive releases that are not seen as mere “records”, but rather as games or applications. There are two main reasons why such concepts may play a bigger role in the future of releasing music:
– New distribution concepts for regular album releases are great if you already have a big name. Then, you can custom-tailor your release strategy to fit the needs of your project and your fans, while receiving a lot of attention from the public and press on the way. This worked well for Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, but would probably not help an unknown producer in Kreuzberg get her name out.
– The app store concept goes hand in hand with the proliferation of ever more powerful, yet more or less closed systems. The ways to get new software onto any regular PC are so diversified, an app store for Windows Vista or Mac OS probably doesn’t have much impact in terms of revenue. However, on platforms that are either closed entirely, like most game consoles or an un-jailbroken iPhone, or that focus on convenience in getting new software onto the device, app stores will likely be the main portals you turn to for new software. And on these platforms, consumers are used to paying money for products. That’s one of the main reasons why they’re so attractive for music releases. Here, control is possible and its exertion doesn’t even bother the end consumers.
There are two sides to this story, really. On the one hand, any system that will help musicians pay their rent (not get insanely rich) with their artistic work should be welcomed, especially in these recessionary times. At the same time, though, we should worry when whole new macro-economies build around a technological platform that is controlled by one company – such as Apple, Sony, RIM, and Nokia, to name only a few. The way to go would be an open standard, a cross-platform application format that would be accepted in the app stores for mobile phones, game consoles, and netbooks alike.