Last week I offered up a fairly discursive ramble about its release and what it might all mean. As has been reported in a variety of places (here’s Idolator, linking to Billboard), it seems to have been a heck of a smash success, since, unlike Radiohead, NIN are reporting some numbers:
Nine Inch Nails’ 36-track instrumental opus Ghosts I-IV, released March 2 via NIN.com, has amassed a first week total of 781,917 transactions (including free and paid downloads as well as orders for physical product), resulting in a take of $1,619,420 USD.
Now a little under half of that comes from one thing alone, namely the deluxe $300 set that sold out in under two days and adds up to $750,000. As further noted, ‘transactions’ don’t specifically equate ‘sales’ and wouldn’t be meant to. These numbers aren’t being officially submitted to SoundScan, which is an interesting move as well, and while on the one hand there’s no reason to doubt any of them, at the same time this could be the start of a new realm of claiming first day/week ‘transactions’ that, in order to be accepted, would need some sort of auditing or verification from an outside source (presumably — it might not be needed, after all, but that seems unlikely, given human impulses to create lists, determine who is top dog, etc.).
Largest point to make right now, though, is the obvious one — this is major money. As Jess obliquely notes in the Idolator entry, the trick in ways is seeing whether or not the numbers and sales last beyond this initial burst. If this is what in UK chart terms has long been described as a ‘fanbase release’ — IE, one huge week of sales and then disappearing, thus the history of most singles by, say, T. Rex or Depeche Mode — then while Trent and company aren’t crying their way to the bank at all, it just reconfirms the special case scenario this all really is so far. But let’s say it becomes a catalog item of sorts — that every week they’re able to show numbers that aren’t huge but consistent, and reflect further income going straight to the band. Then the general interest in this as a stepping stone becomes a heightened one, especially in a time of economic unease combined with relying on worldwide audience possibilities (something Trent has been pursuing and carefully building up over these last few years in particular — aside from a Hawaii date, all Year Zero shows were in countries other than America, though he’d toured With Teeth into the ground — while the official website prominently offers options in Russian, Chinese and Korean).
Meantime, having finally made a long overdue step on the cell phone front (seriously, some friends of mine are absolutely astonished I did this), I can say something else — Ghosts I-IV is an incredible iPhone album (or if you like an iPodtouch one). By which I mean that its being designed as a full release with individual song art so ridiculously and perfectly suits an iPhone — its screen quality, the way the photos look and so forth — that I was honestly surprised a bit when giving it an ear this morning. The importance again isn’t that anything new per se is being done here, merely that Trent and company are incredibly canny people when it comes to maximizing opportunities and possibilities with this release.
Don’t overlook an equally viable — though as with Trent, if you have the cachet, money and time — model that Idolator also noted yesterday, namely Timbaland’s mobile record-and-release song-for-song unit. As Mike Barthel notes, this isn’t Mr. M. entirely going it alone, as Verizon is sponsoring it all, but the likelihood of this being a new standard is becoming increasingly clear — and what this application of “the Radiohead model gone pop” means to how pop itself is considered is damned interesting. And will require more thoughts at another time.