Williams teams with Reznor for experimental Internet release

Douglas Hite

Radiohead is not the only group of musicians who have recently embraced the idea of an internet release. Last November, Saul Williams – under the guidance of Nine Inch Nail’s Trent Reznor – took the concept even further. His newest album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust, broke the mold of Radiohead’s In Rainbows. As opposed to Radiohead’s model of “you better pay for it online or we’ll make it way too expensive to afford when we release it as a tangible record,” Williams is offering his new album for free or for a $5 donation. And you will never find the new album in stores.

In response to why the release was made without a record company or any promotion whatsoever, Reznor stated in his blog, “As the climate grows more and more desperate for record labels, their answer to their mostly self-inflicted wounds seems to be to screw the consumer over even more.”

Futhermore, Reznor used his last album with Nine Inch Nails as an example.

“Year Zero is selling for $34.99 Australian dollars ($29.10 US). No wonder people steal music. Avril Lavigne’s record in the same store was $21.99 ($18.21 US).”

The reason for the discrepancy in the cost of Nine Inch Nails albums was the fan-base. Australian listeners are more apt to buy an extravagantly priced album than listeners elsewhere in the world. This decision was that of Nine Inch Nails’ record label.

“So … I guess as a reward for being a ‘true fan’ you get ripped off,” says Reznor.

And with that, Reznor and his posse, including Saul Williams, attempted to ditch their record labels. While Reznor appeared to have fairly lofty expectations about the success of the album, as stated at nin.com, Williams is apparently more realistic, and gave a rare interview to cnet.com, claiming that he was extremely optimistic about the success of the album and gave a reminder that there was absolutely no money spent on publicity and that his music is on more iPods now than ever.

But how well did the The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust do?

In its first two months of release, approximately 150,000 copies of the album were downloaded. Roughly 1/5 of those people decided to pay $5 for it. In comparison to his last album, the new Williams release has been downloaded almost five times as much and has been paid for almost as much. Keep in mind, the last album has been out for approximately two years.

Whereas Radiohead marketed fiercely for In Rainbows, and has no intentions on releasing the numbers as to how many copies they’ve sold, it might be safe to say that the purely online models for an album release may benefit the lesser knowns more than well-founded artists.

Williams’ newest album has been a phenomenon. It might even pan out to be a phenomenal success as both Williams and Reznor intend on touring and releasing a video for the new record.

But will other musical acts follow? And will they be successful in their online projects? Only time will tell.

Douglas Hite is a junior English major and an all reporter. Contact him at [email protected].