Case Studies/Nine Inch Nails Ghosts I-IV

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Nine Inch Nails releases Ghosts I-IV under a Creative Commons license

We began improvising and let the music decide the direction...the end result is a wildly varied body of music that we're able to present to the world in ways the confines of a major record label would never have allowed - from a 100% DRM-free, high-quality download, to the most luxurious physical package we've ever created. — Trent Reznor


On 2 March 2008, prominent and polemic American noir rock band Nine Inch Nails (NIN) departed from previous music industry management practices by releasing Ghosts I-IV under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA licence. Giving fans the ability to remix and redistribute the work from a multitude of different formats, Ghosts I-IV (aka Halo 26) encapsulates the free spirit of the age to rip, mix, and share, creating a community of ardent followers. The thirty-six track album is divided into four parts, with the first nine unnamed tracks offered for free download, and the entire album available for $US5 as well as in a variety of pressings and packages at different price points. This move has been widely regarded as a master stroke for the band: by selling an accompanying $US300 ‘ultra-deluxe limited edition’ version of the album on vinyl, NIN netted $1.6 million overnight. Expanding the album into the ‘visual world’ a week after release, front-man Trent Reznor announced the launch of the Ghosts Film Festival project on YouTube, calling for users’ film and audio submissions to ‘be as creative as you like.’

The artistic team behind the project included Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Alan Moulder, with instrumental contributions from Alessandro Cortini, Adrian Belew, and Brian Viglione. Collaborating with Artist in Residence (A+R,, Rob Sheridan moulded the album’s accompanying visual and physical aesthetic.

License Usage

"Ghosts I-IV" is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. You are free to share and remix the work provided you attribute the author and do not use the work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.


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