An interview with Trent Reznor (the man behind NiN and the ARG
When your US label, Interscope, discovered the web-based alternate reality game (ARG) you’d built around Year Zero, were they happy for the free marketing or angry you hadn’t let them in on it?
I chose to do this on my own, at great financial expense to myself, because I knew they wouldn’t understand what it is, for one. And secondly, I didn’t want it coming from a place of marketing, I wanted it coming from a place that was pure to the project. It’s a way to present the story and the backdrop, something I would be excited to find as a fan. I knew the minute I talked to someone at the record label about it, they would be looking at it in terms of “How can we tie this in with a mobile provider?” That’s what they do. If something lent itself to that, OK, I’m not opposed to the idea of not losing a lot of money (laughs). But it would only be if it made sense. I’ve had to position myself as the irrational, stubborn, crazy artist. At the end of the day, I’m not out to sabotage my career, but quality matters, and integrity matters. Jumping through any hoop or taking advantage of any desperate situation that comes up just to sell a product is harmful. It is.
Is the Year Zero ARG something labels will copy now?
Well, their response, when they saw that it did catch on like wildfire, was “Look how smart we are the way we marketed this record”. That’s the feedback I’ve gotten — other artists who’ve met with that label ask ’em about it: “Yeah, you like what we did for Trent? Look what we did for Trent”. They’ve then gone on to try to buy the company that did it to apply it to all their other acts. So, glad I could help them out. I’m sure they still don’t understand what it is that we did or why it worked. But I will look forward to the Black Eyed Peas ARG, that should be amazing.
Black Eyed Peas ARG?!!! I really look forward to this next wave of transliterate artists. It is time the employment of multiple platforms became an artform and not just a marketing strategy.