Fan service : The utimate fan co-created experience

The future of the music is not only in the production and selling music, the artists must take care about the fan experience engaging their customers (fans) to co-create content like Trent Reznor did with remixes and video”- Egon Lüftenegger

I’ve been a Nine Inch Nails (NIN) fan for more than ten years, giving me the opportunity to follow Trent Rezonr’s evolution. Trent is pushing the innovation in the music industry. He left Interescope Records to become fully in charge of the NIN trademark, letting him to control the whole customer (fan) experience. He owns his songs, letting him to do whatever he thinks is appropriate. Owning the content and the distribution channel is like to having control of hardware and software just like Apple does.

Trent Reznor launched viral marketing in 2007. Reznor used private torrent sites to distribute videos, raw song materials and resulting remixes from the album Year Zero. Trent, also distributed free USB drives containing unreleased songs and pictures from Year Zero, these USB drives were hidden in the bathrooms of concert venues where the fans found them and then shared the content through the Internet (see Figure 1) .

Figure 1. USB stick found in Spain.

Trent did many innovations to enhance the experience of his fans. We can summarize some Nine Inch Nails innovations as follows:

  • Free Albums : Ghosts I and The Slip.
  • Digital formats: Though Reznor had apparently been contemplating ditching his label for years, Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts I-IV came second, causing reporters to describe the no-label release as Radiohead-style. The disc was priced $5 for better-sounding 320 Kbps MP3, FLAC lossless or Apple Lossless (all DRM-free). First eight songs are free.
  • Nine Inch Nails left Interscope/Universal Music Group and blew off traditional retailers, distributing the CD version of Ghosts I-IV only through the band’s website.
  • Advised Australian fans to steal his music after Universal priced it at AU$30. Praised Oink file sharing network.
  • Remixing policy : One of the reasons Reznor hated being signed to a label was that Universal wouldn’t let his fans remix his songs. Now that he’s on his own, Nine Inch Nails’ remix policy involves making raw materials available for use with Pro Tools or other audio programs. Bonus points if Reznor releases fan remixes on BitTorrent like last time.
  • Premium Tickets at NIN.com : NIN offered premium tickets in some tours, these tickets were personalized with your own name letting you to access to the stadium earlier than regular tickets and enjoy the band testing their instruments before the concerts.
  • Iphone application : NIN.com, Nine Inch Nails website, is also available on the iPhone, where the fans can interact and access to music, videos, pictures and news about the band (see Figure 2).
  • Ultimate Concert Experience: In 2008, Trent offered the Lights in the Sky tour using the state of the art in LED screens and sensors to provide an ultimate user experience for his fans.
Figure 2. NIN’s iPhone application.

The latest innovation experiment driven by Nine Inch Nails was the release of 450GB of raw High Definition footage. The fans co-created a professional release of the film using the official and fan made footage that is freely available on youtube, PS3 and DVD as well. A full HD Bluray version of the concert with 5.1 surround sound will be available to download (see Video 1).

Video 1. Co-created video.

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