Will new marketing techniques, a la Radiohead's In Rainbows, be able to fix the music industry? Trent Reznor is the latest example that they certainly have a chance.
Earlier this year, Radiohead released their album In Rainbows as a digital download for whatever price one wished to pay for it. Radiohead was lauded as the first to take the steps toward redefining the broken record industry.
However, Radiohead’s manager has also made it known that they probably won’t try a similar marketing strategy again. Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails fame, has decided to take things one step further.
In an interview with the Australia Broadcasting Corporation, Reznor was quoted as saying, “I think the way [Radiohead] parlayed it into a marketing gimmick has certainly been shrewd…if you look at what they did, it was very much a bait and switch, to get you to pay for a Myspace quality stream as a way to promote a traditional record sale.”
It sounds as if Mr. Reznor is not as starry-eyed as seemingly everyone else about Radiohead’s against the grain tactics.
He was further quoted as saying, “…to me that feels insincere. It relies upon the fact that it was quote-unquote ‘first,’ and it takes the headlines with it.”
Reznor is following up his previous viral marketing strategies for Year Zero -- clues hidden in tour merchandise that led fans to fake web sites detailing a post-apocalyptic and desolate United States in the year 2022 and unheard songs on USB drives hidden in NIN concert venues across Europe -- with more tricks that show the depth of his understanding for the future of music.
On March 2, he released Ghosts I-IV, a 36-track instrumental album via the Nine Inch Nail’s web site. The record is available in a variety of ways, either as a free download of the first nine tracks, a $5 download of all 36 tracks, a $10 two CD set, a $75 deluxe edition package and a $300 ultra-deluxe limited edition package which featured a Reznor autograph, along with a variety of other merchandise. The limited edition package has already sold out all 2,500 copies.
It might also be noted that all of the Ghosts downloads came with wallpapers, a 40-page PDF of abstract pictures to go with the albums, and other multimedia. The track are high-quality DRM-free MP3s compressed at 320 kbps. In Rainbows came with nothing other than the tunes and as 160 kbps DRM-free MP3s.
Like any other destitute college student, I downloaded the first nine tracks for free and gave them a listen. Described by Reznor as “music for daydreams,” it sounds a lot like Year Zero slowed way, way down and without voices; it won’t hold your attention for long, but it's good background noise for a pensive acid trip.
In a little over a week, Reznor reported that he made over $1.6 million from Ghosts.While critics have argued over schematics and implementationof Radiohead’s and Reznor’s nascent business models on a mass scale, it is nice to see someone as skilled as the Nine Inch Nail’s frontman trying something new. The record industry here and overseas has been floundering recently and in need of rescue. The question is, will they be able to learn from Reznor’s success?