The Major Labels SHOULD Be Worried!

Hosted by

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

One of the great things about the music business right now is that the door is wide open for talent with vision, particularly if they already have a fan base.

Take for example Trent Reznor and his band Nine Inch Nails. Last month, following their separation from Interscope Records, the band announced they would make an experiment out of the release of their next album. Their work, titled Ghosts I – IV, is an instrumental album of 36 tracks.

Log onto their website, and for free, you can download 9 of the 36 tracks in high quality MP3 files. You'll also get free a 40-page PDF book highlighting the entire release, along with digital extras like wallpapers and icons.

Want the entire 36 tracks?

For only $5 you can download all 36 digital tracks in a variety of hiqh-quality files, suited to your playback needs. Of course you also get the 40-page book, and the digital extras.

But let's say you're still attached to playing CD's?

For $10, you can buy the full 36-track collection, on two CD's. You'll also gain access to all the download features as well.

And for the vinyl collector, $39 will get you the same music on four heavyweight vinyl discs with the download extras.

The band is also selling a $75 deluxe edition for the collector who wants to play with Nine Inch Nails' music. The package includes the two-audio CD's, plus a data CD of the 36 tracks, so you can reconstruct and remix the band's sound. Add to that a Blu Ray disc of high-quality stereo mixes and two fabric-bound, embossed hardcover books.

But for those special Nine Inch Nails fans who will not be satisfied with any of these options, there's the Ultra-Deluxe limited edition. It's completely over-the-top with frame-able high-quality prints of art work from the project. Each Ultra-Deluxe limited edition is numbered and personally signed by Trent Reznor himself.

So just how did has the Ghost I – IV experiment done?

Within seven days of the launch, the band had generated over $1.6 million in revenue. All money goes to their bottom line. No outside record company is involved. Some of the versions of the albums will be made available to retailers, adding to the visibility and marketing of the band. The $300 ultra deluxe version immediately sold out, as did the four vinyl-disc set. Now, every record label in America is looking at Nine Inch Nails with envy.

Most labels, hamstrung by bureaucracy, lack the vision, the ability and the management skills to parlay a changing marketplace into a robust business opportunity.

Radiohead opened the door with their “name your price” promotion. But Nine Inch Nails just plowed through it. And Nine Inch Nails is not in a unique position. Many other artists, unsatisfied with their record labels' lack of marketing prowess, are counting the days, months and years, until they can release music on their own.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.