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Nine Inch Nails Release Brand New Single, And Maybe A New Album Too?

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Nine Inch Nails' main-man Trent Reznor continues to be one of the most innovative artists in the music industry today. It's a title that, in my book, Reznor has had a nearly constant grip on for nearly 20 years now. In 1997, the NIN track "The Perfect Drug" (from the Lost Highway soundtrack) made its debut on the internet, and was one of the first music tracks to be premiered exclusively via the internet.

Now, over 10 years later, Reznor is making technological waves again. The NIN website was updated earlier this week with a cryptic message stating "two weeks." And Reznor had more tricks up his sleeve. Tuesday afternoon, he released a brand new NIN track (with vocals) titled "Discipline" to radio stations. "Discipline" was released to radio less than 24 hours after the mixes were completed by Alan Moulder. That same day, the song was made available as a free download, and the multi-tracks were posted for fans to make remixes.

And Reznor promises "more news today." With the new single in hand, suddenly the cryptic "two weeks" starts to make more sense. A new NIN album is reportedly done, and might we have that album in two weeks time? Sounds like a good bet to me.

These are exciting times for both musicians and music fans alike. Musicians like Reznor have found the way to insert excitement and anticipation back into music for music fans. One of the things that I lament occasionally with the internet, is the loss of anticipation that one used to have when an album release was upcoming. You couldn't wait to hear that new album, and spent lots of time wondering what was it going to sound like, what does the artwork look like, who played on it, etc. Now, with the control of the music placed into the artist's hands, you can once again enjoy the mystery of not knowing. I was at work yesterday when my boss from the radio station emailed me to give me a heads up that the radio station would be premiering a brand new Nine Inch Nails track in 10 minutes. I turned on the radio, excited to hear a new track from Nine Inch Nails that as of a few hours earlier, none of us had known was even a possibility!

No longer does the artist have to record something, and go through the traditional channels of submitting it to the record company, wait for marketing to be prepared, etc. Now, artists that are not tied to a major label have the freedom like Trent Reznor to conceive new music, and share it immediately with their audience with no filter in between the two.

Comparatively for me as a music fan, I was excited about this development from NIN in the same way that I felt excited a few years back when I heard that Weezer were posting MP3 demos daily from the album that they were working on at the time. Bands like NIN, Weezer, and Radiohead consistently give me a reason to want to buy their music, because they understand that in order to make me buy it, they have to make it cool enough for me to want to buy it. I'm happy to be a consumer often, and consumers love surprises. NIN and Radiohead have certainly been good over the past year of delivering those surprises, and in the process, they're quickly putting the final nails in the coffin of the old music industry business model.

With the unexpected radio single release of new music yesterday, Reznor has opened yet another new door for artists. Actually, I think it's more appropriate to say that Reznor has kicked that door down. Bands and labels will jump all over each other to be the next to release new unexpected music to radio. Radio will jump all over each other to be the first to play that new unexpected music for their listeners. In the end, everybody wins – The artist has found the way to get the music to the market with no barriers between the recording studio and the fans/radio airwaves. Music fans get not only the new music they have wished for on a more constant basis (no more 2 year gaps between album releases) and maybe even some of that variety that they have been longing for on the radio airwaves.

In 2008, the music industry may have finally found the answer to many of their problems of the past few years.  The question is, are they paying attention? Let's hope so.

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About Matt Wardlaw

  • http://www.knownjohnson.com Tom Johnson

    As long as he’s going to release a traditional CD of this and not expect fans like me to keep buying the admittedly beautiful Ghosts style packages, I think he’s going to be successful on his own. But if he keeps putting out new music with super-expensive ultra-elaborate packages with each release, fans are going to start questioning what the ultimate motive is. Obviously, I think we all realize that the musicians need to get paid, but things like the two deluxe issues of Ghosts I-IV are best left to be one-offs in his catalog and not the start of a trend. I can afford something like that once in a great while, and I’m happy to have beautiful things like that – once in a while. That said, I’m excited to see what May 5 brings – “Discipline” is a very strong, catchy track. Nothing groundbreaking, but there’s a point in most artist’s career when that ceases to be the point of their existence.

  • http://www.addictedtovinyl.com Matt Wardlaw

    Very true, Tom – but for Ghosts, he did release a traditional CD (cheap,) download (also cheap,) with the deluxe edition basically released as the cool collectors piece for the NIN fiend that has to have everything. Kind of the Radiohead model where they had the multiple cheaper option, and then an expensive collector’s option.

    As long as they a – give us that cheaper option, and b – continue to put a traditional CD in stores, I’m down with whatever the artists want to put out additionally as far as a deluxe edition. I may choose not to buy it, but for those that want it, good for them. It’s kind of similar to the argument about tour packages w/ meet and greets, etc. I might not want to pay for it, but for those that do want to pay for the experience, great.

    And from the artist’s potential, it’s potential money they are crazy to pass up. I think the artist can maintain ultimate cred by keeping their merch/releases from hitting the level of what KISS does. That’s the official point for me that any self-respecting fan should question what they’re supporting.

    So until we see the official NIN casket, I think we’re cool.

    To one of your original points, there is the occasional release that is only released digitally, not in stores. That’s what I dread. Even though I love my Ipod, I’m still addicted to having the physical product as well for liner notes, etc.

  • http://www.knownjohnson.com Tom Johnson

    I guess what I’m saying is that the deluxe thing stands out as something special now, but if $80 and $300 releases pop up several times a year from one artist, fans might start to feel that they’re not really getting anything special anymore, whereas, say, Ghosts V-? in 2009 in another $80/$300 package deal might ring as a very special thing.

    There is that level of fan that feels that they have to have everything, and once they start to feel pick-pocketed by their favorite artists, things are bad. I can’t see Trent going this route – he’s been very, very smart so far as he sets out into this new marketing realm, and I think he realizes that making Ghosts something special sets it apart and makes it an event – “when is the next installment coming?” “what’s the next package going to look like?” etc. If he keeps turning out ultra-deluxe editions, he waters down the power of what he just pulled off – less and less people will buy them each time. But I would bet that he will garner about the same sales of each version of Ghosts I-IV when the next installment does come out if he does it right.

    (This is all coming from someone who did buy the $80 package, by the way! I wouldn’t consider myself an uber-fan by any means, just one that saw something beautiful and amazing and had to have it. Radiohead’s In Rainbows DiscBox did not appeal to me in anyway, on the other hand. I thought it was a bit of a rip off.)

    I will be very sad if/when it comes to simply digital releases. I think that’s pretty obvious if I’m willing to fork over $80 for a Nine Inch Nails album I could have gotten for free. :-)

  • http://www.addictedtovinyl.com Matt Wardlaw

    Ha – I hear you loud and clear.

    There’s an additional level for me, using Dream Theater as an example. They put out a lot of really cool “official bootlegs” and various stuff, at a reasonable price.

    The same stuff that other bands might charge 80 bucks for, for a deluxe edition – Dream Theater puts the same mega content on, with nice packaging, and charges 25 bucks. Gotta love Mike Portnoy and his complete understanding of being a fan (which I think Trent has as well.) Admittedly, when it comes to what Trent is doing, the packaging is a lot of the 80 dollar charge…I’m really referencing some bands that charge an arm and a leg for overall bonus content.

    At what point do you have too much Dream Theater? I’m starting to reach that point. There’s an element of too much of a good thing like you reference above…yet it’s priced right…and for the uber-fan that wants the insane volume of releases…Dream Theater certainly take care of that.

    So to your point about watering down the demand, I think in a way, Mike Portnoy has watered down my desire for the official bootleg stuff to a point. I was buying all of the releases as they came out…and finally got a bit selective with the last round, and picked up the DVD that I really wanted, and elected to pick up the rest of the new releases later.

    I’ll be in mourning when the loss of physical product comes around. People will think I lost a favorite pet;-)

    Great stuff – thanks for the dialogue.

  • Max

    “But if he keeps putting out new music with super-expensive ultra-elaborate packages with each release, fans are going to start questioning what the ultimate motive is.”

    The motive is to find a way to make online distribution of music feasible by essentially letting ultra fans, who shell out the big $ on collectibles, subsidize other fans who download free or only pay the $5.

    As for me, I got the $10 option for Ghosts and should get my cd in a couple weeks(already have the FLAC version).

  • ben ditmer

    i feel so violated that in the past i have forked out $220 (new zealand currency) for the 2 “deluxe editions” of and all that could have been + 10th anniversary downward spiral SACD 2 disc set and now knowing that the dirty record label skimmed of most of that! so i am all for TR charging what the fuck he wants for some his art! thanks trent..