Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Facing the fact that four in five are freeloaders

Trent Reznor has decided to tell all about his recent engagement with a new music business model and it’s not pretty. The Nine Inch Nails frontman produced Saul Williams’s The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust album. When it …

Fri, Jan 11, 2008, 09:24

   

Trent Reznor has decided to tell all about his recent engagement with a new music business model and it’s not pretty.

The Nine Inch Nails frontman produced Saul Williams’s The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust album. When it was released last November, listeners had the option to download it for free or to pay $5 for higher-quality MP3s.
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Reznor and Williams thought that fans would shell out the token $5 to support the artist, but they were in for a rude awakening. While Williams’s self-titled 2004 album sold 33,897 copies worldwide, only 28,322 of the 154,449 people who downloaded Niggy Tardust – just 18 per cent of the total – put their hands in their pocket this time around.

“I thought if you offered the whole record free at reasonable quality – no strings attached – and offered a hassle-free way to show support that clearly goes straight to the artists who made it at an unquestionably low price, people would do the right thing,” Reznor said.

But this was not to be. While Reznor argues that more people now have Williams’s music than ever before and may well go to see him when he tours, the fact that fewer than one in five downloaders were willing to pay $5 a pop means a shortfall for the artist when costs are taken into account.

Reznor describes the outcome as “disheartening” and the figures may explain why Radiohead, the other high-profile proponents of the tip-jar business model, are keeping quiet about the facts and figures from their recent In Rainbows release experiment.

Yet the record business is very keen to point to the increased number of people now paying for downloads. The BPI reported that there were 77 million downloads sales in 2007 in Britain – a 50 per cent increase on 2006′s figures. Yet album sales are falling year on year: the 138.1 million sales in Britain in 2007 represented a drop of nearly 11 per cent on the previous year.

And as Reznor and Williams discovered, the revenue from downloads is certainly not enough to offset the costs involved in recording the album in the first place. The probable solution? You mean you have to ask? Expect a big bump in ticket prices for the live show.

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