Some clever marketing by Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails, a band I’ve been a fan of for some time, are gearing up for the release of their next album, entitled ‘Year Zero‘.

Going back to the concept album format, Year Zero is apparently set in 2022, where the American administration has become totalitarian, the connection of church and state has been completed and the nation (and perhaps world?) has been suffering from a series of terrorist attacks which have culminated in the world almost “starting again” or even coming towards its final stage – hence the album title.

Just to add an even more bizarre edge to the story, sightings of a thing called The Presence, a hand coming from the sky, begin to get reported. Some believe it’s God enacting the rapture, others believe it’s the devil. The underground opposition to the Government’s control believe it to be a form of psychosis resulting from the intake of Parepin, a chemical put in the water supply to stop disease and safeguard against biological attacks.

It all seems extremely out there, especially compared to the real world concept of The Downward Spiral, but it’s not the story itself I’m impressed by, but rather the way it has been told so far.

The NINwiki gives the clearest and most up to date coverage of the whole thing, specifically this page, but I’ll give a very brief idea of what’s going on, and it’s nothing short of a viral marketer’s wet dream.

It all began with a tour t-shirt which had a website hidden within highlighted lettering on the back of it. From there a number of different websites have been found, from an underground discussion forum to the website of a new church to a ‘Missing persons’ type website set up after a terrorist attack at the 2009 Oscars.

Each site reveals more about the album’s plotline and offers clues to the next step of the process. On top of this, the toilets at a select number of gigs on the band’s current tour will have USB keys hidden in them. Each of these keys feature one of the upcoming album’s tracks, and often an image or file of some sort.

Each audio file found seems to end in a morse code message too – with one ending in a loud noise which, when run through a stereograph, shows the shape of The Presence.

It’s all pretty detailed and interesting, and I’m sure there’ll be more to come before the album is released – and maybe more after that (Reznor said Year Zero is part one of the overarching concept).

Besides the fact that five tracks of the album have been made available freely online by the band before the official release (check the myspace page, for example), it’s great to see some thought being put into music above and beyond the bare minimum. It doesn’t mean we’re going to hear a great album, but it shows they’re at least putting effort into it.
What must be most enjoyable for Reznor, however, is the response the whole thing has gotten. Nine Inch Nails is the type of band that has a strong, core following and they seem more than happy to play this game he’s leading them on. Overall, fair play to him for a) not being overly protective of his music and b) putting a little bit more effort into the release than many would.

Now, let’s hope the music is good too (although some of the tracks available so far sound great – and hopefully they’ll be improved within the context of the entire work too).

(Oh, I just spotted on the band’s performance page that they’re playing the Civic Centre in Wolverhampton – talk about a kick in the nuts for me. I spent 9 months of my life in that “city” and not one decent act turned up… I think Tori Amos or Fiona Apple played there the year before I went and now that I’m gone Nine Inch Nails decide to drop by. For the love of God, play Dublin!!!! It’s been 12 bloody years!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>