In March 2008, Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails released the first part of Ghosts I-IV via BitTorrent, and released all four albums under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. Even though fans could easily get free versions of the album, Ghosts actually went on to become the best-selling album of 2008 on Amazon's MP3 store.

Radiohead's In Rainbows, another high-profile album which was available for free for a limited time in late 2007, ended the year just outside of Amazon's Top 10 for 2008.

Why Pay for Free Music?

Trent Reznor himself questioned the viability of the 'free' music model earlier this year, but clearly, his own band has been able to make it work. While overall album sales were down last year (even when accounting for digital downloads), bands like the Nine Inch Nails have been able to leverage their fanbase and bypass the traditional music industry channels, while still making a profit.

On the Creative Commons blog, Fred Benenson asks why people chose to pay for the NIN album even though they could have had it for free. While, as he points out, ease of use is surely one reason, most fans probably simply want to support their favorite musicians by actually paying them directly for their music.