Head Down

Posted on 13th May 2008

Nine Inch Nails have done what many record labels would be absolutely terrified to do. Trent has given his latest album, The Slip, away for free. And not any old dubious quality download (like a another high profile band tried to do), but top quality MP3s, together with lossless FLAC and M4A files, and the WAV multitrack files to enable fans to make their own remixes. In fact fans haven't been slow in uploading their remixes to the remix.nin.com site either, several tracks off the new album are already there as well several hundred other mixes.

Trent has been quite prolific in recently with this being the fourth album in as many years. Okay so Ghosts was an experimental project, but it still counts. Of the 3 regular albums, he started to change tack slightly, and although the albums were still very much Nine Inch Nails, there was more of a whole album feel, rather than a collection of songs. This was never more so than on Yero Zero. It was only recently I discovered the Year Zero alternate reality game, which has been fascinating to read about. I knew there was a concept behind the album, but never realised the scale it had been conceived on. The NIN Wiki has lots of info if you're interested.

The Slip, however, goes back to the regular collection of songs. On first listen I wasn't completely bowled over, but did think it was worth playing again. The album is a grower, and after several repeated listens, there are a few tracks that I'm starting to think will be firm favourites in years to come. After listening to remix of Head Down, entitled Head Down (Further) if you can find it on the remix site, I relistened to the track and felt I'd opened hidden door. Hopefully it won't be too long for the tour to come to the UK, then I can make up for missing the two gigs they scheduled then cancelled in Birmingham and Wolverhampton, then rescheduled while I was in Vienna.

However, the biggest buzz about the current way Trent is doing business, is going to have a few people sitting up in the record industry, taking notes. The Slip, has been released completely free, with a Creative Commons license that allows you to play, listen and remix to your hearts content. Trent even states on the website "thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years - this one's on me", which is quite a bold statement. You will be able to buy a CD, and judging from the responses, most fans are likely to do just that. Even though you can get the album for free, it's more about being able to listen to the songs on whatever medium you chose, without any fear of the RIAA or similar. Trent no longer has a traditional record deal, and being much more clued into the technological revolution that has been happening for the last 10 years or more, and indeed has positively embraced it, understands probably better than most what his audience will give and take. There aren't many artists that are comfortable just giving their music away, in fact Prince is the only other person I can think of that would, seeing as he's already given away his last album, Planet Earth, as a free CD with The Mail on Sunday.

I don't think artists and record companies will be rushing to follow suit, but I do think more artists will be considering the benefit of having their fans play with their tracks to see what they can come up with. Nine Inch Nails though do have quite a creative fanbase, that many others must be envious of, and one that is very loyal, as Trent himself astutely notes. I'm enjoying listening to the Remix site, and can imagine an official remix album may well see a release a some point. But then again, that wouldn't be anything new for Nine Inch Nails.

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