Nine Inch Nails right now is in the middle of one of the more interesting viral marketing campaigns i've ever seen for their new album Year Zero. Watching the events unfold has been pretty exciting for me, both from fan's perspective and a marketing one. I don't know of any mainstream musicians who have gone to such interesting extreams in promoting their work and it's about time.
For the uninitiated you can get the cliff notes of what's been going on here or for those looking to just see a collection of everything that has been scraped together you can go here and try and figure out just what the heck is going on yourself. The short version is that pre-release tracks have been poping up on random flash drives left in night clubs. Technology savy folks out there have discovered data embedded in the tracks (either data or in morse code) as well as other numbers that lead to phone mail boxes and random web sites that paint a post-apocolyptic vision a potential american future where our rights have been erroded to almost nothing by the religious right and the "necessisty" of the War on Terror.
Clearly Trent Reznor has a political point to make (one I support, but that's another blog posting)
So what about the Marketing part? So far as part of this marketing program 4 songs have been released, for free, that's pretty amazing in itself for the Music industry but what's more amazing is how fast all of this information has been peiced together by the NIN fan base (clearly very technology literate). The program reaches back to reference NIN songs many years old or to the present with highlighted letters on the back of the recent European tour shirts pointing to bizzar web sites. The amount of work and planning to pull this marketing program off feels immense, something that seems just as important to the success of the program as the program itself. As a fan it's impossible to not feel infected by all of this, and it's a strange feeling to both simultaniously realize that it's a completely fictional marketing campaign created to promote the new NIN album and to also willingly want to set aside disbelief and allow myself to get wrapped up in it.
It's too early to tell all the directions this is going to go in, but I plan on spending some time really analyzing this whole program from start to finish, putting together a timeline of events and identifying the things that made this program (assuming it is) a success.
In the meantime I am going out of my mind waiting for that next album and keeping my eye out for the "presence"