Trent Reznor On “Niggy Tardust” Sales: Thanks For Being Jerks, Internet

jharv | January 4, 2008 10:15 am

Trent Reznor might be learning a little lesson today about courting the allegiance of miserly Digg users, because while 154,449 chose to download Saul Williams’ Reznor-produced The Inevitable Rise And Liberation Of Niggy Tardustreleased as a free download in November, with the option to pay $5 for higher bitrate files–the number of people who decided to fork over half a sawbuck was…decidedly less.

Saul’s previous record was released in 2004 and has sold 33,897 copies.

As of 1/2/08,

154,449 people chose to download Saul’s new record.

28,322 of those people chose to pay $5 for it…

Keep in mind not one cent was spent on marketing this record. The only marketing was Saul and myself talking as loudly as we could to anybody that would listen… If 33,897 people went out and bought Saul’s last record 3 years ago (when more people bought CDs) and over 150K – five times as many – sought out this new record, that’s great – right?

I have to assume the people knowing about this project must either be primarily Saul or NIN fans, as there was very little media coverage outside our direct influence. If that assumption is correct – that most of the people that chose to download Saul’s record came from his or my own fan-base – is it good news that less than one in five feel it was worth $5? I’m not sure what I was expecting but that percentage – primarily from fans – seems disheartening.

Zuh? “Very little media coverage outside our direct influence”? Pulling this little stunt in the direct aftermath of In Rainbows got it written up just about anywhere online that covers music-related news. Sure, it’s a little sad that 5,000 fewer people chose to pay for Williams’ record this time out–EDIT: or, pace the comments section discussion below, considerably more this time out if Reznor’s 33,897 represents sales of Williams’ last album from 2004 to date–but in addition to the dwindling fanboys, that kind of blanket (good) press is going to attract a lot of curious (but stingy) non-fans and folks who’ll download anything if it’s free, regardless of bitrate. Reznor’s hope that if he “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'” is laudable in a “last honest (if pie-eyed) man in the music industry” kinda way, but Saul Williams ain’t Radiohead, who were smart enough to know it was probably a good idea to give people the option to pay as little as a buck if they so desired. Didn’t you know $5 is a lot to ask of people in the P2P era, Trent?

Saul Follow-Up And Facts [NIN]