Free distribution vs. sales

Written by Herra Paalanen on Monday, January 26th, 2009

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Exhibit B, your honour.

Last year Trent Reznor pulled a coup and released five CD’s worth of material for free under a CC license. The first batch of these was a four CD collection of instrumental material – not radio friendly pop to say the least.

So how’d that gambit work out?

In case you missed the it, Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV became Amazon’s best selling mp3 album of 2008. It outsold the new Coldplay. (Radiohead, who also put their latest album up for free download for a limited time, came in at #11.)

I’d say the key to that success boils down to two things: visibility and a dedicated fanbase (or community). In the traditional model visibility is exactly what record companies provide — and fair enough, it’s what they’re good at and what their resources are geared to do. Whether this is actually necessary these days is another matter entirely.

In the field of fanbase or community building, NiN is again a prime example of the way it should be done. This live video project is a brilliant case. 400 GB of HD video footage shot and edited by fans, released for free with the consent of the band.

Point being: don’t bury that Long Tail enthusiasm just yet, it’s early days and we’ve work to do.

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