Zut Alors!: Is Trent Reznor the Future of On-Line Entertainment?

Every now and again (OK, twice), an artist will make a move that I feel is as important, if not moreso, than the music s/he makes. Back in the day, I really got behind Pearl Jam bucking the whole Ticket Bastard system, essentially telling the established machine that they weren’t buying into it. PJ stopped making big budget videos and reached out directly to the fans to keep their music alive. Seeing as they remain one of the largest selling concerts of the year whenever they tour, obviously it worked for them.

Trent Reznor has been doing something similar, though still distinctly different, enough to make me sit back and say, “wow.” Apparently feeling less than enchanted with his relationship with the Interscope record label, TZ made the announcement back in October of 07 that he was dropping the label and that Nine Inch Nails would henceforth be “a totally free agent, free of any recording contract with any label.” So it was with probably little surprise that on March 2, 2008, NIN made their first on-line offering with Ghosts I-IV, a 36-track series of CDs. With this one, fans can opt for anything from a completely free download of the first nine songs to shelling out $300 for the “ultra deluxe limited edition package,” which includes such goodies as “an exclusive, four-LP 180 gram vinyl set in a fabric slipcase, and two exclusive limited edition Giclee prints in a luxurious package,” amongst other things.

Sure, Radiohead already went this route (though they weren’t the first, either), and if this was all Reznor was doing, I’d be less impressed. Remember “Year Zero” from last year? How many of you got into the alternate reality game (ARG) that went along with the project? Eerie websites, free songs on memory sticks left in bathrooms, a special concert–they guy really got into the entire idea of reaching out beyond the limitations of just a CD and its packaging and truly embraced what today’s tech had to offer. I’m not a huge fan of the whole Web 2.0 theory, but if such a thing exists, Trent seems to have his finger squarely on its pulse. (Read more about the ARG side of things in this great Wired article. In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t get too involved with this aspect, as the A.I. game that launched the genre confused the hell out of me, though I did follow the articles that were written about it.

For the record (CD?), I ordered the $10 package of Ghosts this morning and, while I haven’t had a chance to download it yet, I’m looking forward to doing so tonight and then getting my two actual CDs in the mail in a little bit. Hopefully, Trent is on the forefront of two very important movements. First, being in the vanguard of using an all-inclusive media package to entertain us, musically, visually and mentally. I, for one, really dig that. And if it just so happens that he’s helping to drive the stake through the heart of record labels that don’t seem to give much of a shit about the fans, well, I’m A-OK with that, too.

To get your copy of the latest offering from NIN, go here. It’s up to you how much, if anything, you want to spend.

I’ll be back hopefully no later than next week with the LET take on the albums.
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