The Price of an Album (approaching zero) and the Price of a Souvenir (sky's the limit)

Following the lead from Radiohead, the new Nine Inch Nails album is available not with a "name-your-own-price," but in an array of options from free to a $300 "ultra-deluxe limited edition", with each level including more physical goodies to complement the digital downloads.


At TOC 2008, Seth Godin talked about how much of the utility of a printed book lies in its "souvenir" value (coverage from Medialoper), drawing some skepticism from the audience:

While I think Godin may have a point, the market for souvenirs has to be considerably smaller than the market for books that people actually want to read. I suspect more than a few publishers were surprised to find out they might soon be in the souvenir business.

What Reznor’s done is aim at both the smaller "souvenir" market and the larger "just want to read — or in this case listen to — market" (and several points in between). While there’s a certainly a large audience that will gravitate toward the low (and zero) priced options, I have no doubt they’ll sell out of those "ultra-deluxe" packages:

Ghosts I-IV in a “hardcover fabric slipcase containing two audio CDs, one data DVD with all tracks in multi-track format, and a Blu-Ray disc of Ghosts I-IV, plus a four-LP set on 180-gram vinyl, which is packaged in a fabric slipcase. Two limited-edition Giclee prints are included; package is numbered and signed by Trent Reznor. Limited to a run of 2,500, and one piece per customer. Ships May 1 and includes immediate download.

Selling all of those ultra-deluxe packages would bring in $750K in gross revenue. Corresponding $750K volume numbers for all of the non-free options are:

$5 download

$10 2-disc set

$75 deluxe edition

$300 ultra-deluxe

150,000 75,000 10,000 2,500


I expect we’ll see more of this kind of pricing, which addresses that emotional need among fans of varying degrees for a "souvenir" of their devotion.