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.