Here's an interesting (and at times chucklesome) essay by ex-Depeche Mode member Alan Wilder, concerning the music industry and its ongoing existential crisis. Topics covered include an increasingly fickle and attention-starved attitude towards listening, the loudness war's attempt to catch the consumer's ear for a moment---along with the ensuing ear fatigue that sets in when you try to listen intently, and musings on alternative modes of operation and distribution. Bang-on the nail and well worth a read.
Coincidentally, making use of the boutique-approach discussed by Wilder, Trent Reznor just released some new NIN, entitled Ghosts I-IV, directly available through his site (or at least, it will be available once the server-crushing traffic wanes---I ended up getting the free release through a NIN-authorised torrent). There's an almost bewildering variety of products and prices available in addition to the free version, right up to the $300 Ultra-Mega-3000 Edition.
It's interesting to see these special editions increasingly being offered alongside standard releases, to subsidise the mp3 and basic CD releases. Giving away part of the release for free also makes a lot of sense, especially when there are so many tracks on offer anyway; Ghosts I clocks in at almost half an hour of music, free for familiarisation, to become lodged in the mind of listeners, who'll then hopefully be back for more. Assuming I get enough material written, I can see myself utilising a similar method. After all, why limit a release to a single CD or 74 minutes of music if you've written the equivalent of two CDs? Package it all together as a single release, and give away 30--40% of it as mp3s to get people listening straight away before you're eclipsed by next week's news. Little use saving it for a separate release if no-one will give either release a chance.