Trent Reznor: CD Outdated… But If We Have To Sell It, Why Not Make It Cool?

from the and-that's-how-sales-work dept

Earlier this month we wrote about how Trent Reznor/Nine Inch Nails was creatively marketing his new album (and how the RIAA was incorrectly trying to takedown songs from file sharing systems, even though it was part of Reznor’s promotional plan). Two separate submissions today make an interesting point about Reznor’s strategy. First, comes from Cixelsid, who points out an article that’s actually from last month, where Reznor talks about why he’s giving away DRM-free music on USB drives hidden at his concerts:

“The USB drive was simply a mechanism of leaking the music and data we wanted out there. The medium of the CD is outdated and irrelevant. It’s really painfully obvious what people want — DRM-free music they can do what they want with. If the greedy record industry would embrace that concept I truly think people would pay for music and consume more of it.”

It’s always nice to see a musician recognize this simple fact. However, it’s made even more interesting when combined with this submission from John about the new Nine Inch Nails CD. According to some photos on Flickr, the CD changes color after it’s been played. Basically, it changes colors when it gets hot (like those old t-shirts or mugs or whatever). Now, this is simply a gimmick, but it’s an interesting one for someone who believes the CD is irrelevant. Whether on purpose or not, Reznor (or, perhaps someone associated with him) recognizes that, these days, if you want someone to buy the actual CD, you need to give them an additional reason to — especially if it’s a reason that can’t easily be replicated. A color changing CD is exactly that. It’s an additional reason for buying the CD, simply for the “cool” factor. It won’t work for everyone (in fact, this type of thing only works for some of the first who do it), but it shows a pretty smart way of thinking about things. Don’t expect people to just buy the same old thing (especially when many consider it irrelevant) unless you offer something of value with it that gives them a reason to actually buy. You can still sell CDs, but not if they’re just delivering the same thing that can be more efficiently delivered in other ways.


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Comments on “Trent Reznor: CD Outdated… But If We Have To Sell It, Why Not Make It Cool?”

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35 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Here's a thought..

that wouldnt make any sense at all.

that would increase manufacturing costs at least three fold, and what exactly si the benefit ot the consumer? would you ever play your music from individual thumb drives? or just import it into your preferred media management system (itunes, wmp, etc).

the only thing that idea has going for it is gimmick. which is very similiar to what Trent has done with the thermal dye, so it would be good for one or two uses, and then it would lose its coolness factor and would be too expensive to maintain.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

Re: Re: Here's a thought..

I checked out the site and you can listen to the tracks after entering a valid email. That is a little less than owning and putting them on your media player of choice. You could download “dirty” versions of their first single to do your own mixing but that is not quite the same either but great promotional work. #10. I just hate ripping the CD and having 90 one second tracks to delete or uncheck (of course I uncheck all then recheck the 9 total tracks). Same thing with Tool’s Undertow album. Roughly 58 two second tracks of crickets chirping until you get to track 69. Of course it is better than having a five minute blank on a track before the song starts and you pretty much have to edit it out if you don’t want to waste space.

Cixelsid says:

BTW

The whole CD changing colour things sort of fits into the whole story behind “Year Zero”, which is that the drug propogated by the Religious Government of the Year Zero timeperiod causes is distributed in an eye drop formula and causes the whites of the eyes to turn black. The CD reflects this, so though it might be cool gimmick to promote the CD, its still fits into Trent’s marketing strategy of promoting the story behind the music (and most likely the merchandise to follow).

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

CD Medium is irrelevent why?

I really think Reznor’s comment makes no sense at all. He follows his obsolete/irrelevent sentance by stating that DRM-free is the future. CD’s can be DRM-free as far as I know. Sure more people are satisfied with low bitrate data format songs but some still like the audio quality of a CD. I bought the CD for $9.98 at Target. Seems reasonable. There are certainly some gimmicks with the color changing CD label. I could have sworn it was black before I stuck the CD in my drive and it was white when I took it out. You could even leave finger prints on the label. Plus there was a little paper insert on the back to call the US Bureau of Morality to report the distribution of this material. You call the number and they have a message all lined up for a good listen. Pretty interesting. So like Mike said, obviously he still thinks CDs are an important medium for selling music if they were willing to invest in making the product as a whole, physically and musically unique to say buying a digital track off iTunes. The tracks are all DRM-free. So what is wrong with the CD medium. I think Reznor’s statement is probably not what he intended.

Ruiner says:

interestn

When it comes to music Reznor is one of the best and innovative marketers out there. Not surprised at all about the thumb drives. Back in the early 90’s his second major release contained one of those mini-disks (a tiny 1/3 sized CD, a format that most players supported). It contained two bonus tracks, an Adam Ant cover and another new track. Record industry decided it was too costly so you If you weren’t one of the lucky first 1,000 you didn’t get the mini disk but instead got them as bonus tracks number 98 and 99. After the last full track your CD player would start counting up playing empty track after empty track until it got to track 98.

Craig says:

Yeah but...

I think the point Trent Reznor is trying to make is that the labels won’t allow DRM-free data-format releases, i.e. mp3, even though he’d like to do them. You have to remember that most artists aren’t in control of how their music is distributed by their labels.

The band KMFDM, on the other hand, now owns their catalog and is releasing download-only versions of their records through their website at a fair price. They also distribute their own merch, again at very fair prices. This is something a major-label act can never pull off thanks to the labels, distributors, promoters, and basically eveyone else having their hands out and having a say in what happens to the music after it leaves the studio. KMFDM will never sell a millin records, but they have several thousand hard-core fans who buy everything the band puts out. The strategy for them has ultimately been successful.

Matthew says:

This is great

I’m sorely tempted, but I shall hold on to my boycott of purchasing music. I prefer to not buy CDs any way because they’re unwieldy and usually tacky (tho the color changing aspect is a nice touch). I’d much rather pay a reasonable price for a download.

However, I’m all over the concert once they’re in town.

Anonymous Coward says:

Yep, signing a record label contract is pretty much selling your soul to the devil, for some labels anyway. At that point they own you and your music, and they can force you to do music the way they want or you’re out of luck, because said contracts prevent you from profiting from doing music on your own or for another label. This amounts to a conspiracy between the record labels and the RIAA to pad their pockets via filesharing lawsuits, even if it’s against the artists’ wishes.

And btw, selling USB drives with CDs is ridiculous. Just burn mixed mode CDs that have both the top quality CD audio tracks as well as a data track with 320kbps MP3 files, which you can then downsample if you don’t like the large file size. All you have to do is buy the CD, pop it into your computer, and copy the mp3 files into your media player app or MP3 player device. That should not significantly add to production costs in any way and it will give the public what they want, which is the convenience of digital media that they can play wherever they want along with a hard copy in case their mp3 player or hard drive blows up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Isn’t that where all the other “has been” bands go to push their latest half-assed, need to pay my rent and alimony, comeback CD?

I’m not sure what you’re trolling about or why, but Trent Reznor isn’t broke, and has many fans. Also, he’s never stopped making music.

And I never stopped listening.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) says:

Dumb ACs

AC #16 – Can’t you just rip a normal audio CD to an mp3 in any bitrate you want? No need for a multiple format disc. Unless like the In Your Honor Foo Fighters disc that forces you to download in 128kbps windows media audio. That is if you don’t bypass their autorun rootkit type thing.
AC #19 – The CD slowly returns to black so you will see the change. You can touch it or heat it with anything to see the change, ie. hold your finger on it for a few seconds and it will leave your fingerprint. Sure, its not that we are little kids but it shows that it does something that no other CD does(yet) and makes it something to incentivize(?word?) a CD purchase instead of a DRM-laden track from the online market.

Common Sense says:

Re:

“Yep, signing a record label contract is pretty much selling your soul to the devil, for some labels anyway. At that point they own you and your music, and they can force you to do music the way they want or you’re out of luck, because said contracts prevent you from profiting from doing music on your own or for another label. This amounts to a conspiracy between the record labels and the RIAA to pad their pockets via filesharing lawsuits, even if it’s against the artists’ wishes.

And btw, selling USB drives with CDs is ridiculous. Just burn mixed mode CDs that have both the top quality CD audio tracks as well as a data track with 320kbps MP3 files, which you can then downsample if you don’t like the large file size. All you have to do is buy the CD, pop it into your computer, and copy the mp3 files into your media player app or MP3 player device. That should not significantly add to production costs in any way and it will give the public what they want, which is the convenience of digital media that they can play wherever they want along with a hard copy in case their mp3 player or hard drive blows up.”

I agree with this guy.

Censure says:

Wth

Seriously some of the comments here are JUST STUPID…

Of course I could have ripped the music… But I payed out of respect… “Hell, I would have paid more…” NIN is seeing the “opportunity” of on-line profit and siding with your fans is good PR. DRM is irritating and easy to get around for those who really want to…, Its like gun control for music.

“Good people” have to jump threw hoops to obtain them(if at all) And “bad people” still get guns illegally anyway – period

Nick Kent says:

Reasons to buy CD's

Reasons are simple. Besides “pride of ownership” there’s things like:

-artwork
-lyric sheets
-extra “goodies”

etcetera. Being a longtime Pearl Jam fans, I often show off all the cool extra stuff in PJ cd’s that you don’t find in your average CD case. Most cd’s are the equivalent of videogames that are simply cardboard boxes that contain a cd in a paper sleeve. To heck with that…

DV Henkel-Wallace (profile) says:

It was 30 years ago today...

Led Zeppelin did this with In In through the out door around ’77: the album (which came in a genuine plain brown paper wrapper, exactly large enough). The cover (it was a fold-out) was in a kind of sepia tone….but if you got it wet it turned coloured! I don’t know why I used the past tense; I still have that album, though no way of playing it.

After a while they stopped selling that fancy version and reverted to the ordinary album cover, as in this case. Ditto with the Stones’ “Sticky Fingers”

So there’s nothing new under the sun, I suppose.

MrBill says:

Actually the CD does more than change color...

A friend of mine at work owns it (as do I now, legally) and he reported that after the CD changes color there is binary code on the CD (I can confirm this). If you take the binary code and put it into an binary to ascii converter you are rewarded with a URL. The URL takes you to a website….

See http://www.ninwiki.com/Year_Zero#The_CD for more information

Anonymous Coward says:

CD = better audio

mp3, itunes, wma, etc are all lossy audio compressed from a much better quality data stream. Even 320kbps mp3 does not sound as good as the cd. If you think any of those formats do then you are not using the right speakers or amps to drive them and/or have hearing damage from loud earbud headphones … Why oh why do people pay the same or more for less quality I have not a clue. The CD is by far much better quality than any digital format sold other than FLAC. Oh wait, is there a place you can even buy FLAC files?!?

Man On The Edge says:

Up yours, Reznor

So what does this moron think should happen? Kill off physical records so many people, myself included, can no longer go to a record store and browse through records for something awesome to buy? What if your stupid little MP3 player or hard drive fails? What the hell is wrong with people nowadays? Don’t people have pride in owning the real album of the group they like? I don’t understand this drive some people have to just end physical media for music, I couldn’t imagine no longer expanding my CD/Record collection anymore. I’m not butthurt like everyone else is because CDs aren’t less than 10 or 15 dollars, I don’t get a goddamn record every day, it’s not hard at all for someone to afford a CD every once in awhile even if they were $30 or above.

This jackass needs to stop painting people who still appreciate music enough to own a real life album as people who are living in the stone age, it’s retarded to think CDs are obsolete, because you’ll be sorry you can’t re-rip those songs you’ve lost.

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