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Nine Inch Nails does it again

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Trent Reznor tossed another dart at the music industry by releasing The Slip as a free download.

Here’s why the latest gift to NIN fans means something to all you web professionals out there.

There’s more than one way to profit from your work, even if it seems like the only route goes through one place, be it a monolithic music label or other type of company structure, small or large. For Reznor, it will be the fan interest that will translate into solid ticket sales, greater interest in merchandise sales at shows, and even the sale of physical versions of the free digital download of The Slip being made available now.

It’s all about control. The loss leader has been a staple of retailing for years. Look no farther than the phenomenon of Black Friday, the shopping day after Thanksgiving, when retailers vie with each other to get people into their storefronts in the dark of morning. Offers of heavily discounted items from tools to electronics spur shoppers to come inside, where enough of them may buy some other items at their usual margins.

Giving anything away poses a scary prospect to anyone, when it comes to business; we aren’t talking about charitable causes of course, but the items that make up part of the customary operation of the business.

Nine Inch Nails is in a position to give away music, as Reznor has an established and sizable global fan base. Free may be an option for other digital creators even more today than it has been over the past years the Web has been in place. More people have faster than dial-up connections than ever, enabling more of them to participate in such a giveaway.

The investment of goodwill and public relations may pay off well for Reznor. If it brings out more fans to shows, drives more sales of merchandise, with him reaping the profits, label-free, who could argue his free strategy was a bad idea?

No one should leap into free promotions without researching their impact. History is littered with giveaways that didn’t pay off; a notably ill-fated one was an all you can eat crab legs promotion at Red Lobster that cost the CEO her job. But free may be a strong enough loss leader to make other parts of the web enterprise more desirable and profitable to its owners.

Nine Inch Nails does it again
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