I'm following Nine Inch Nails on SoundCloud. I have all of NIN's albums except for Ghosts I-IV (which is funny because you could once download the whole thing for $5 from the NIN website) and The Slip. What I love about Nine Inch Nails on SoundCloud is that you can listen to a huge amount of their work for free. They have 97 sounds posted, including some sets that are over two hours long, and I can just stream this stuff whenever I want! For free! That's astounding for such a big name act.
Now I know that Trent Reznor is well know for his hatred of the major record labels' propensity for ripping off artists and fans alike. He's told fans to not buy NIN's albums, but to download them instead, "Because one way or another these mother f---ers will get it through their head that they're ripping people off and that's not right." (Moses, 2007).
NIN also released Ghosts I-IV independently and made Ghosts I (nine tracks in total) available as a free download on the NIN website. You could pay $5 to download Ghosts I-IV or $10 if you wanted the two CD box-set. You could also pay more for deluxe, limited edition, fancy pants extras (the ultra deluxe limited edition package going for $300 sold out within 30 hours (Grasmayer, 2008)).
I love that Nine Inch Nails have made their music so accessible to fans everywhere and I love what they stand for. If you're not that familiar with them, you can listen to a whole lot of their stuff for free. If you're a hardcore fan, you can pay money for cool, limited edition booty. They give their fans a whole lot of options, which is good for us, but it's also smart marketing. It's not greedy and it's not exploitative, it's fair and it shows respect for the fans.
Now you could argue that it's easy for them to work to this model because they are already so popular and have enough of a hardcore fan base that are happy to pay to keep them working. That may not be the case for smaller artists who are still trying to make a name for themselves and I get that. Having said that, Trent Reznor has some advice for us little guys along those lines.
Nine Inch Nails and other big name artists like Radiohead can defy the rules of the traditional music industry to the benefit of, not only themselves, but fans as well, and they have. And that's awesome.
While researching for this blog post, I came across Bas Grasmayer's paper, 'best practices of the online promotion of new musical content: 5 product launch case studies'. It made for an informative read and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in music distribution.