Fans bought 2,500 copies of the ultradeluxe edition of the new album, Ghosts I-IV, offered at the same time as free tracks and other music packages that begin as low as $5. The most expensive option sold out in three days, and activity on the Web site crashed its servers.
Reznor gave fans the choice of downloading four digital albums for $5, downloading the same package and receiving a CD for $10, downloading some of the songs free, or buying various pricier packages with additional content and features, like video and slide shows, starting at $75.
He also licensed Ghosts I-IV, a 36-song production, under a Creative Commons license that allows fans to copy and distribute the music they buy.
Reznor's pricing scheme appears more successful than Radiohead's attempt last year to sell albums while allowing fans to pick their price.
Radiohead's In Rainbows lacked copyright protection, and the band never released statistics on the number of downloads or the prices paid. However, Radiohead did stop offering the album free after the CD went on sale in stores, leading many to speculate that the promotion failed to harness profits.
ComScore reported that 63% of music fans who downloaded the album did not pay at all and those who paid spent an average of $6. Since nonpaying fans outnumbered those who paid for the album, the average price for all the downloads sold sank to about $2.25, according to ComScore's figures.