Commentary

Fan-Friendly Digital Move: NIN Releases Bootleg Video

Two of the most popular music groups around, Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead, have already demonstrated that offering music for free doesn't necessarily hurt sales. Consider, last year Nine Inch Nails' "Ghosts" shot to the top of the charts, even after the group released some tracks for free and others at pay-what-you-wish pricing. "Ghosts" also was the best-selling MP3 album last year at Amazon.

As for Radiohead, fans purchased 1.75 million hard copies of the group's "In Rainbows," which was also released at pay-what-you-wish pricing, making the album more commercially successful than the group's 2003 "Hail to the Thief" (990,000 copies) or 2001's "Amnesiac" (900,000).

Now, Nine Inch Nails has made another fan-friendly digital move. Frontman Trent Reznor this week released high-quality video footage of live performances. "The internet is full of surprises these days," Reznor wrote on the group's site. "I was contacted by a mysterious, shadowy group of subversives who SOMEHOW managed to film a substantial amount (over 400 GB!) of raw, unedited HD footage from three separate complete shows of our Lights in the Sky tour. Security must have been lacking at these shows because the quality of the footage is excellent."

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He also provided a link and invited fans to create their own remixes.

With the moves, Reznor is quickly solidifying his reputation as one of the most Web-savvy major musicians out there. More than simply offering free tracks, he's willing to cede control to fans, who may or may not come up with remixes that he'll like. While mashups are inevitable in an era when consumers can create their own media, not all musicians (or filmmakers, comedians, etc) are willing to risk letting fans reinterpret finished work.

The record labels themselves are still trying to keep people from sharing files -- a battle they've been losing for 10 years now. The Recording Industry Association of America, which threatened more than 30,000 Web users with legal action, is now pushing a plan to work with Internet service providers to sanction file-sharers. It might serve the group better to instead study innovators like Reznor and figure out how to engage, as opposed to alienate, music fans.

2 comments about "Fan-Friendly Digital Move: NIN Releases Bootleg Video ".
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  1. Robert Lasky from StorySpring, Inc., January 9, 2009 at 9:40 a.m.

    The RIAA can certainly stand to learn a lot from innovators like Trent Reznor, Radiohead. Also artists like Kanye West and Sean Combs who understand how to establish and market themselves as brands. They've all been fluid in their thinking, innovating and ultimately a part of the land grab from the labels since the late 1990's. And don't forget one of the earliest pioneers, Prince.

    Philip Seymour Hoffman's character in "Almost Famous" delivered a poignant message when he said "You're coming at a dangerous time for Rock and Roll. The war's over. They won." (referring to the labels).

    As it turns out, the early 1970's was a battle in a much longer and multi-sided war. The problem the labels don't seem to understand a basic philosophy of war... there is no impregnable fortress.

    The RIAA's new plan continues to demonstrate how out of touch the labels continue to be with understanding shifts in the music business, and how insistent it is on continuing to alienate itself from its source of revenue.

    Having demonstrated an inability to innovate their business model from within over the past decade, the RIAA would do well by hiring one of these visionaries as a consultant to map out a more viable game plan.

  2. Scott Curtis from Studeo, January 9, 2009 at 11:09 a.m.

    This NIN video stuff is funny because I read something a couple of months ago where Interscope wouldn't let them sell the tour video NIN was going to make so it was scrapped. Now there's a shady organization who snuck multiple HD cams into every show? I think not.

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