Nine Inch Sales

Nine Inch Nails is thinking out of the box with its next-generation Radiohead marketing of the band's new 36-track record which was recorded over a ten week period last year.

Where Radiohead shook up the industry with its -- you name the price (or don't pay a price) model, Trent Reznor's group is adding a few more nuances to their attempt.

1. A free download of the first nine cuts.

2. A $5 download for the entire album (well below the Apple iTunes $9.99 industry standard).

3. A $10 double-CD set either on their website or at record stores after April 5th.

4. A $75 deluxe edition including a hardcover book, a DVD and a Blu-ray disc featuring high definition recordings as well as a slide show.

5. Plus, an “ultra deluxe” limited edition version featuring the same things as the $75 version, but also signed and numbered by Trent Reznor.

You can't say they're not trying.

And that should be commended because selling traditional CDs at traditional prices is not working and the album-for-$9.99-concept isn't exactly making anyone rich.

Still, my prediction is that these Nine Inch Sales will not matter much except for giving the major labels another black eye.


Because the price of music has been devalued over the last eight years and new consumers have their own set price -- free.

It's hard to argue with free. The group is offering an excellent price point on the full track CD and we have evidence that the next generation wants to own CDs at the right price. Five dollars looks like a good price.

But in order to make a comeback, the record industry has to do a lot of things it is currently unable to fathom and, if understood, unwilling to do.

Among these things is the acceptance that selling music is not a growth business. Only the most cockeyed optimist could make a case for that.

Live entertainment is a growth business that the labels need to get into (but they don't have the skills of, say, Live Nation).

360 deals may be an option, but not an attractive one for any artist in their right mind because -- again -- the labels can't just hang out a sign that says "Open for 360 Deals" when they don't have the skills.

Selling music in bulk is an income stream -- like text messaging -- five or ten cents a download so buying music is not a major decision for young people. This will feed the young consumer's addiction to digital music. It might even drive a reason for being, for say, a $20 a month plan -- similar to the unlimited texting plan most cell phone companies offer their young subscribers. The $20 text messaging plan would be a failure if the consumer wasn't able to run up a large texting bill first while getting hooked on texting. The labels have that in the wrong order. You've got to create the addiction before a "plan" works.

Subscription "all you can eat" music services like Rhapsody and others is a non-starter. These plans have been rejected by the masses and have relatively small support. It's not the future.

Getting back to discovery would drive sales, but the labels are so busy firing people -- consolidating, cutting back and pruning down for their quarterly investment results -- that they forgot the one huge boost to their business would be the discovery of new music, new artists -- maybe the next big thing.

There is no next big thing in the record industry.

Certainly, the Nine Inch Nails experiment is a good attempt to test some angles.

But don't expect a business that is run and influenced by lawyers to come up with their second big idea in almost a century (the first being the phonograph record -- the CD doesn't count, it's not a big idea).

Which is why we are witnessing the end of an era -- the decline of the record business.

It was good while it lasted but as long as its leaders cannot see that selling music is not a growth business they are destined for more of the same.

In the meantime, bands and artists are trying new things until the industry realizes that the future of the record business is not in the record business.

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