In May NIN did it yet again with their new album, The Slip, which was released for a free download on their site in a number of format options ranging from high quality mp3s to FLAC to WAV to M4A (Apple Lossless – the bit rate ranges between 415 kbps to 1063 kbps). There do seem to be a couple packages on the way for fans who want their NIN on CD or vinyl (or both). I downloaded the album in M4A just to see what the sound quality is like (it is excellent of course). Ordinarily I probably wouldn’t buy the album in a store if it was released in the normal way (record company … high cost … restrictive licenses … bah!). The free download makes it a no brainer for me and did I mention that the album and the PDF album art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike US 3.0 license? This means you can make copies and share with friends. It also means you can remix their albums provided your remixes are licensed the same way (which means more sharing and remixing):
the slip is licensed under a creative commons attribution non-commercial share alike license.
we encourage you to
share it with your friends,
post it on your blog,
play it on your podcast,
give it to strangers,
I downloaded my copy of the album using BitTorrent (I have so few opportunities to download stuff using BitTorrent legitimately that I had to give it a go). I don’t know if it is good but my download rate was in the region of 200 kBps to 350 kbps or thereabouts (small tidbit of information) so even the 262 Mbps download went pretty quickly (under 30 minutes). I have spoken about the Ghosts release in a couple talks I have given about copyright and alternative content licensing options (I talk primarily about Creative Commons licenses) and when you consider the tremendous commercial success of the Ghosts release (over $1 619 000 in the first week of sales) which included free downloads both on the NIN website and just about everywhere else you could point a BitTorrent client, it is hard to miss the commercial potential for Creative Commons licensed releases in the music industry.
This initiative blows my hair back in a good way. It reveals the tremendous potential for success that is available to artists who are reluctant to sign their way into a very tight corner in a conventional record label. I can’t help but think that the record labels are missing a golden opportunity to try out a different distribution model and perhaps even make a bucketload of cash themselves while still giving fans what they want – freely downloadable, high quality music they can share and use to express themselves. I am a fan again, not necessarily of the music (still getting back into it after a decade or more of not listening to NIN), but of the band and what they are doing. NIN has also released a Google Earth KML file that overlays downloads on the map to represent the number of downloads:
Here is a closeup of Joburg and Durban with some data on some of the Gauteng downloads:
I am looking forward to seeing what happens when NIN releases The Slip in physical formats in July. It is really interesting that the physical downloads weren’t available at the same time as the download became available. I also noticed that with Ghosts, you could only really download 5 free tracks on the site (although the full albums were available elsewhere on the Web) and with The Slip, you can download the whole thing for free. There seems to be constant innovation and that can only be a fantastic thing for fans and the industry as a whole.