Nine Inch Nails‘ recent release, Ghosts is amazing. Of course I mean that musically, but also in the socio-political way. The success of the album and the way it was distributed is proof that there is a future for music online in our brave new world. In a single week it grossed what most people only hope to make at least once in their entire life times. Not every artist will be able to achieve that, but the model is promising in that it doesn’t take huge marketing budgets and stadium tours to make a living as a musical artist anymore. Ghosts has paved the way, and it has been a long time coming.
According to Kevin Kelly, it only takes 1000 true fans to sustain a really decent income. The economic theory stems from the idea of the Long Tail, coined by Chris Anderson in the October 2004 issue of Wired magazine. In his theory, Kevin Kelly describes a True Fan as:
A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.
If the fact that NIN sold out the super-ultra-deluxe package of their new release in 2 days at \$300 a pop is any evidence, I think Kevin is definitely right about something.
Distribution was the name of the game in the industry for a long time. Whole media empires were built around controlling the pipeline from top to bottom. This means that labels tried to control every aspect of the business from the time the artist signed to when the record hit the shelves in the store. They tried to control production, development, marketing, distributing, sales; the whole nine yards. Every media company tries to operate in this way. It’s how they get rich.
We all know the Internet has changed that. Yet it has taken an awful long time for anyone to step up to the plate. It’s out there for the taking: the stuff potential is made of. It’s just waiting for someone to give it a shape and a name. Artists like NIN are finally taking a step in the right direction. Hopefully the shock-wave left in their wake will shake everyone out of their slumber.
There is no pipe anymore. Distribution, media.. it’s all free. It’s time to use our imaginations. Music is art again.
[tags]nin, nine inch nails, ghosts, music, music industry,