Saul Williams has announced that his newest album, The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! will be offered as a free download or an artist donation of $5, following a model started by Radiohead last month.
Unlike the Radiohead experiment though, tracks will be encoded at 192kbit/s MP3, 320kbit/s MP3 and Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC). As you can see, Saul has done his homework. The main problem I had with In Rainbows was that the files were compressed at 160kbit/s, which means lower audio quality and more distortion. Its fine for iPods but you could truly tell the difference on home and car stereos. True heads will appreciated the FLAC files because they are uncompressed and pretty much near CD quality. Not only that, but unlike In Rainbows, each download will contain a PDF of the album art and liner notes.
Production for NiggyTardust was handled by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who recently b*itchslapped his record label by going independent, so I’m not surprised someone like Saul would go this route. Although this album won’t get nearly the fanfare of the Radiohead thing, it should be watched just as closely to see if independent artists who aren’t household names can be as successful as established ones when it comes to distributing music on the Internet.
Pre-order The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust! on SaulWilliams.com. The album drops on November 1st.