In a surprising turn from free downloaders into paying customers, Trent Reznor’s loyal fans helped the latest Nine Inch Nails album, Ghosts I-IV, to become Amazon’s top selling-album of 2008.
The much-hype album was offered as a free download on the NIN website and was initially and intentionally leaked to BitTorrent sites such as the Pirate Bay in advance of the album’s physical release.
But that didn’t stop NIN fans from scoop up legally-purchased, paid versions of the album in record numbers. Estimates put Reznor’s early sales of Ghosts I-IV at $750,000 — but that figure shot up to $1.6 million, in only its first week of release.
Following on from Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” sales experiment, Reznor’s success appears to be further proof positive that “free albums” can still make money — especially when released by established artists with a huge number of devoted fans.
Amazon recently published a list of its 100 best-selling albums of 2008, and guess which one is on top? It’s the Nine Inch Nails album Ghosts I-IV, which band front man Trent Reznor personally uploaded to the Pirate Bay and the private music tracker What.cd earlier last year. Reznor also offered a free download of the album from the band’s website and licensed it under a Creative Commons license.
It was pretty clear early on that those free releases didn’t harm the commercial success of Ghosts I-IV. Fans paid more than 1.6 million dollars for downloads and deluxe edition physical releases of the album in the first week after its release alone. The album also got nominated for a Grammy award just a few weeks ago, and Reznor followed up Ghosts I-IV with another album that got released via the band’s own Bittorrent tracker.
NIN’s use of torrent sites and Creative Commons licenses often gets compared to Radiohead’s online experiments. Radiohead had offered is album “In Rainbows” as a free download, but asked its fans to donate. The band also teamed up with a traditional label to release In Rainbows in stores.
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