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Published on May 13th, 2009 | by Rob Cumiskey


Infected – Reznor and Innovation

‘Infected’ will be a weekly column by Venntertainment.com documenting Pop Culture in Viral Marketing. ‘Infected’ will also include sporadic ramblings on other random ‘viral’ topics…watch this space!

This Week we have our first post:

Reznor and Innovation

With Record Labels culling the number of artists on their books and with more and more acts going independent, it’s so important for musicians to be as innovative as they possibly can be.

Obviously it easier for acts with an already huge following, like Radiohead, to use an innovative idea like they did for ‘In Rainbows’. The likelihood that their fans would ‘buy in’ to that idea was huge. But it’s amazing how many large acts ignore the ‘Viral’ approach through either fear of the unknown, or ignorance.

The Esteemed Trent Reznor

The Esteemed Trent Reznor

Enter Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nail’s enigmatic frontman. If you thought Radiohead were revolutionary, think again.

In advance of his last album to be released on a label, ‘Year Zero’ on Interscope, he ‘leaked’ three songs from the album at a gig in advance of the official album release as part of a Viral Reality Game. This was created by, surprise, surprise, 42 Entertainment (The guys that brought us last year’s ‘The Dark Knight’ campaign). Wired have an alrticle on it here .

Reznor left Interscope and released 2 albums in 2008. Ghosts I-IV was released in digital format before physical copies were made available, and many different formats were made available on its physical release. Then in May 2008, he released ‘The Slip’ with no advance warning or promotion, as a free download from NIN.com. In January 2009 he released a 400GB HD file with live footage from a number of shows, via BitTorrent and in February he stated that after their 2009 tour with Jane’s Addiction, NIN will be on hiatus.

Wired have now featured a new innovation from NIN. This time it’s an iPhone App that allows you to connect with other NINs fans and share all sorts of media, Twitter style. What will this guy think of next? Well he’s going to incorporate a Wiki into his NIN.com site which will allow even more fan interaction with posting of videos, photos and remixes of songs. All moderated by ‘Super Fans’ for free, with certain special privileges.

All I can say is, he is most certainly not finished, and the music industry could do with more ‘Tribal Leaders’ (as Seth Godin would  say) like this. Reznor understands the way consumers work when they are linked together by a common cause.

My question is, does this viral style work with new brands as effectivley? We’ve seen 42 Entertainment have succes recently with Year Zero and The Dark Knight, but would those campaigns have been as successful without the big brand name attached? It’s over to you guys.

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Pop Culture fanatic, Aston Villa supporter, lover of penguins.

10 Responses to Infected – Reznor and Innovation

  1. For the “with teeth” marketing the viral thing kicked in when tracks were “leaked” on USB keys in venue toilets when NIN were playing, which I thought was ingenious.

    NIN have done more work on viral marketing and “freeing up musicians” but ultimately I think Radiohead’s mark will make more impact because they’re just a band that fits a broader audience.

  2. Darren Byrne says:

    Excellent post.

    I agree with Kevin. Unfortunately the most innovative and original people and ideas are not always the one who get the credit. Radiohead’s contribution to the changing shape of music marketing will be remembered for a long time.

    But does it and can it work with new brands? Well, Snakes on a Plane became a huge cult hit before it was even released. Unfortunately the concept was better than the movie itself, so it probably won’t be one for the history books.

  3. I’d say you’re possibly right in that Radiohead are going to be remembered for it…

    Good point about Snakes on a Plane Darren!

  4. Trent is so hot!! Would give anything to see NIN in concert again!!

    Oh and big shout out to Rick for playing some Ronan Keating today on the radio! Deadly buzz!

  5. sharon says:

    Stephen fry has successfully virally marketed himself (one would go far as to say as a product) using twitter.
    usb keys aren’t so original. although some of the movie compaines are doing cute/cool things with theirs – a smiley face for ‘watchmen’, a cross shape usb for ‘lesbian vampire killers’ and a vynil record usb for ‘the boat that rocked’. it’s never the most original. simply the one who made it popular first.
    when I see viral culture, memes or whatever, used for advertising I find myself getting unreasonalbly annoyed. All I can think is “thats another thing they’ve stolen from us just to suck our wallets dry” (most recently with flashmobbing ads)

    and GOD yes! I’d love to see NIN myself!

  6. I just think it’s interesting to see what can happen when you lead your fan base properly, and use innovative marketing methods, particularly in the music industry. So many bands use the same old route and are noticeably suffering as a result.

    I think NIN are still as relevant now as they were over 15 years ago, without a record label…

    None of the methods he uses are particularly new. It’s mixing them into this Alternative Reality Game that caught the imagination of thousands of his fans that grabs me. Very few musicians are prepared to go that far.

  7. Sharon says:

    “Very few musicians are prepared to go that far”

    and it is truley felt, I think, by the fans when they do go the extra mile.
    I don’t know if any of you remember but loooooong before radiohead did it, David Bowie was doing it (I know there were others but he’s a successfull mainstream artist). Back in the early days of the interweb he was releasing his stuff to fans if you were a member of his site. a while later he was flaoting himself as a product that his fans could buy shares in (to me that was a little surreal), unfortunatly shortly after that – and an incredible gig in dublin – he had his heart problems.
    I often wondered if his physical state had remained solid if his virtual state would have done things to the future of the net and music/bands.
    He is a great hero to me personally and I once heard that he had said he wouldn’t be happy to go to bed unless he’d done five creative things that day, a trait to be admired 🙂

  8. “I often wondered if his physical state had remained solid if his virtual state would have done things to the future of the net and music/bands.”

    Excellent point. If only all artists, or ‘artists’ were that creative.

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