The two latest albums by industrial rock superstars Nine Inch Nails were released as free downloads under a CC license before they went on to making record sales. That's exactly the kind of exposure that helps spread the word about Creative Commons.
For those of you unfamiliar with Nine Inch Nails, the band, in existence since 1988, is a major figure in American heavy/industrial rock; actually, with 20 million albums sold worldwide, it's safe to say it's a major figure in music in general.
In 2007, the leader and sole permanent member of NIN, Trent Reznor, had made much publicized statements that were very critical of his record company and the way the record industry functions. One year later, he put his words to action, leaving his label (an imprint of Universal) and self-releasing his new albums, Ghosts I-IV and The Slip, last February and May respectively.
Not only that, he decided to put them up for free download before releasing them commercially. Record numbers of downloads (1.4 million for The Slip) didn't prevent the albums from selling extremely well once the physical versions were made available: the $300 deluxe edition of Ghosts I-IV sold 2500 copies in three days!
What's more, Nine Inch Nails chose to place both albums under a BY-NC-SA Creative Commons license. That in itself constituted a very important step in popularizing CC, which we rejoice about here at jamendo.
After Radiohead, this is also a second great example that giving out your music for free is not incompatible with selling it as well. The main element being that those two bands have solid fanbases willing to spend money on them. So there you have it: in today's world, the main asset for artists is not the contract they've signed with a record company, it's the fans they've gathered. We've only been convinced of that since 2005.