16 Jan

O’Reilly Radar – The President’s challenge

All I can think is: we gave you the Internet. We gave you the Web. We gave you MP3 and MP4. We gave you e-commerce, micropayments, PayPal, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, the iPad, the iPhone, the laptop, 3G, wifi–hell, you can even get online while you’re on an AIRPLANE. What the hell more do you want from us?

Take the truck, the boat, the helicopter, that we’ve sent you. Don’t wait for the time machine, because we’re never going to invent something that returns you to 1965 when copying was hard and you could treat the customer’s convenience with contempt.

via O’Reilly Radar – The President’s challenge. Cory Doctorow has a wonderful saying “Copying is never going to get harder than it is now.” The idea that we’ll be able to go back in time and make it harder for people to get digital information/media/anything is just wrong. Businesses (hello entertainment industry) seems to ignore that fact time and time again. Businesses can either accept that getting media via the internet is getting easier and easier and try to make it simpler for consumers to get it legally or they will fail.

05 Mar

Trent Reznor Does Something Different and Succeeds

Trent Reznor, the front man for Nine Inch Nails, who has widely been acknowledged as one of the most important artists in the music industry. Trent Reznor has released a new multi-part album, Ghosts I-IV, with both a Creative Commons license and an innovative pricing scheme. The first 9 tracks are available as a free download from either the site or through a legal download from ThePirateBay (note: a legal use of BitTorrent, those of you who think BitTorrent is only for piracy). The whole album is available as a download in multiple formats, including pure lossless cd quality, for only 5 dollars. You can also purchase the two cd set that will be mailed out on April 8th along with an immediate download of the collection. There are two other pricing plans, a deluxe $75 package that includes a blu-ray disk of extras along with the acutal multi-track recording sessions so you can play with the music.

The final package is a hefty $300 dollars and includes all of the previous sets, plus some more extras including being signed by Trent Reznor himself and limited to only 2,500 possibly being sold. The amazing thing about this is that already inside of three days since being offered the limited package has already sold out. This means that already Trent Reznor has made $75,000 $750,000 not including those who paid for the smaller packages.

The thing that I particularly liked about what NIN did, is that the cost to sample the album was free in real terms. The album could be sampled without feeling like you were ripping off the band such as what could have happened in Radiohead’s plan and in the earlier idea Trent Reznor spawned that was Niggy Tardust. This was something that I mentioned back when Niggy Tardusts was orginally released.

If an album is going to be released on the internet, why not make it easy for people to sample the music. Amazon does it for cd’s and their music store as does iTunes, get with the program. If the album is released on the internet before it is exposed to the public, of course people won’t cough up money to pay for an item they have no idea about. Would you buy a product without testing it first, or verifying that you are receiving something that you want?

I will say that like Wil Wheaton, I downloaded the album off of BitTorrent first then ultimately paid the $10 dollars for the full album and will probably go back and buy the deluxe package later on. This is an amazing confirmation of the idea that artists can sell their work through the internet and they don’t have to go through record albums to make money. Granted NIN does already have a large fan base and a large market presence, but Reznor did something that hopefully will change the music indusitry for the good.

(Edited: March 6, 2008 – Minor error in the amount made in the three days that it took the limited package to sell out.)

10 Jan

Trent Reznor and the $5 Album

Today Trent Reznor, the lead in Nine Inch Nails, was interviewed in an article for Cnet News.com. Reznor was interviewed over his latest expirment, in which he bankrolled an album “Niggy Tardust” with Saul Williams and then released it without any record labels and converesly any promotion. The entire album was made as a free download, with the option being to pay $5 for a higher quality version. The only promotion was through the NIN site and wherever else Williams and Reznor could talk about the album. The big news released a week ago was that 154,449 people downloaded the album and out of those 28,322 or 18.3% paid for the album. This has been thrown around the internet as the idea that this means that modern consumers won’t pay for music, that we must instead tax those who have internet service and simply offer the music for free.

One issue that I feel has been overlooked is how many people wanted to sample the music first before buying the album. One of the powers of iTunes is the ability to only buy those songs that you actually want, you don’t have to buy a $15 cd for one or two good songs. This is one area in which radio or some similar type of internet system, such as Last.fm or Pandora, play an important role in the digital ecosystem. People do need exposure to music and radio provides that outlet for songs to be promoted. One of the major reasons indie rock took off over the last several years is the ability for a band to through up a webpage on even MySpace and gain an international reach. This wasn’t done in this instance, there was no real exposure for the album beyond some posts on NIN’s site and the few news articles buried in the back of papers about it. Radiohead had way more press exposure being a much more mainstream band. Also how many of those that downloaded the album actually liked “Niggy Tardust”? I did download the album and did not pay for the album. I quite frankly didn’t like the album. I did like “List of Demands” and I also do like NIN’s. I listened to “Niggy Tardust” once all the way through and never did anything more with it. It simply doesn’t appeal to me. I wouldn’t even have downloaded it if I had exposure to the album previously.

If an album is going to be released on the internet, why not make it easy for people to sample the music. Amazon does it for cd’s and their music store as does iTunes, get with the program. If the album is released on the internet before it is exposed to the public, of course people won’t cough up money to pay for an item they have no idea about. Would you buy a product without testing it first, or verifying that you are receiving something that you want?

I do pay for my music, I do buy cd’s from those artists who I listen to their music day in and day out. I pay for the music that moves me, the makes my day better, the music that defined my previous relationships, the music that I sing too and make a fool of myself in the process. That is music that is worth paying for, something that I listen to once and then just sits on my hard drive is not worth paying for. This isn’t to say Saul Williams and Trent Reznor didn’t produce a great album and they shouldn’t be economically rewarded for their time and effort. The album just didn’t vibe with me, if I had sampled it before hand I wouldn’t have downloaded it and I wouldn’t have gone and found it through a file-sharing site if there was no legal way to obtain it without paying.

I am also going to agree with Mike Arrington and just reference his response to Reznor on the idea of an internet tax to pay artists and recording companies. On the issue with Radiohead, that was the worst process I went through trying to download an album, BitTorrent is a heck of a lot easier than that. Radiohead make the system easier for your album and maybe it wouldn’t pop up on file-sharing sites. People will almost always invariably go to the easiest and fastest process to obtain something and that site was not a well designed site and probably did send more a few people to shall we say “different methods” of obtaining the album.

Note: I am not advocating file-sharing, I do believe that artists should be rewarded for their work. However to quote Lawerence Lessing “bits are never going to get harder to copy only easier.”

Update(2 March 2008): NIN just released a new album under a CC license, go check it out.