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Trent Renzor of Nine Inch Nails says he has wanted to release an album over the internet for some time. ((Karl Walter/Getty Images))

By Peter Nowak

Industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails has released a 36-track album in a variety of formats on the internet, with a portion available for download for free over file-sharing networks.

The band released the four-part instrumental album — Ghosts I-IV — on Monday on its own website as a full download for $5 US or as a $10 US double-CD, as well as deluxe editions for $75 US and $300 US. The band also decided to make the first volume of nine tracks available for free over the BitTorrent file-sharing protocol.

Trent Reznor, who writes all Nine Inch Nails songs and is a proponent of new technology, said he has wanted to distribute an album for free over the internet for some time, but was not able to because of interference from his record label. Nine Inch Nails split from Interscope in late 2007.

"Now that we're no longer constrained by a record label, we've decided to personally upload Ghosts I, the first of the four volumes, to various torrent sites, because we believe BitTorrent is a revolutionary digital distribution method, and we believe in finding ways to utilize new technologies instead of fighting them," Reznor said in a release on the album's website.

"I’m very pleased with the result and the ability to present it directly to you without interference."

Reznor telegraphed the move nearly a year ago, when he told the Herald Sun in Australia of his intentions.

"If I could do what I want right now, I would put out my next album, you could download it from my site at as high a bit-rate as you want, pay $4 through PayPal," he said in May 2007.

The release is also the second move by a high-profile act to use the internet as its primary distributor. British rock band Radiohead released In Rainbows on the internet in October 2007 and asked fans to pay whatever they wanted. The band also released the album as a regular CD in December.

Nine Inch Nails' last release with Interscope was Year Zero Remixed in November, which was a reworked version of the original album released in April 2007. Year Zero did not sell as well as previous albums, which Reznor said was a result of mismanagement by Interscope. The label priced Year Zero higher than many pop albums because it knew Nine Inch Nails fans would pay extra for it, he said.

"They're thieves," he told the Herald Sun. "I've got a company that's so bureaucratic and clumsy and ignorant and behind the times they don't know what to do, so they rip the people off."

The album was marketed in part with an alternate reality game that revolved around a near-future dystopian United States, where the country had devolved into a Christian fundamentalist theocracy. Clues to the online game were found in the form of clues on Nine Inch Nails T-shirts, the songs on the album, and in USB drives left in bathrooms at concerts.

Reznor described the new album, which was recorded over a 10-week stretch in the fall, as "a soundtrack for daydreams."

"This collection of music is the result of working from a very visual perspective — dressing imagined locations and scenarios with sound and texture," he wrote on the album's website.