Promoting Your Music: The Trent Reznor Case Study

June 21, 2010

by Simon Miminis

Trent Reznor

Today we continue with part two of our look at music marketing by focusing on an artist who has created an extremely effective business model for musicians. Trent Reznor has worn many hats be it as the lead singer of his successful alternative rock group Nine Inch Nails or his experience as a Sub Record Label Executive. Today we’ll focus on his experience in the music business and his creation of an innovative and successful music business model that can be applied to any band or artist.

CwF + RtB = Success:

Reznor’s business model revolves around this concept: “Connect With Fans” and “Reason To Buy”. If you want your fans to buy your music you must fulfill these two basic requirements. By connecting with your fans you amass brand loyalty and by giving them a reason to buy you make it easier for your fans to justify spending money on your product. Reznor accomplished this in several ways. Let’s begin with part 1 of our formula.

Connecting With Fans:

Your fans need to feel special, they need to feel involved with the artist in some way shape or form. By connecting with them you gather their support which helps set you up to launch your music venture when you have a product to sell. Reznor began doing this through several means: He would leave USB keys in venues before his performances that included tracks from his upcoming CD along with links to his website (something like an indie scavenger hunt) for fans to find after shows. He also released band tour T-Shirts containing hidden anagrams that when put together and googled by fans led to a website containing a virtual game created by Reznor for his fans.

Apart from these more elaborate ideas he also garnered fan loyalty by giving away much of his music for free as high quality downloads (or lower quality MP3’s). Not only that, but in the past he has also released free live uncompressed video footage of some of his shows available to his fans through his website to edit and compile as the fans wish. He did the same with tracks from one of his albums by releasing the raw uncompressed tracks for download through his site allowing fans to remix and edit the tunes as they desired! Apart from releasing this sheer amount of free content Reznor also has forums and blogs on his website allowing fans to connect with one another, share footage from shows and discuss the group. By connecting with his fans in this way, as well as helping them connect with one another, he has been able to successfully create hype around his band, amass fan loyalty and attain free promotion through his already existing fans by allowing them to share Nine Inch Nails content for free all around the world, which leads us to part two of the formula…

Reason To Buy:

These days simply selling your CD might not cut it. Reznor has shown us through his business model that a little bit of creativity in your product can go a long way. For example, when Reznor released his album “Year Zero” on CD it was manufactured so that it would change color from Black to White as it was played on a CD player revealing a web address for a virtual game Reznor created for his fans. Furthermore, When he released Ghosts I-IV (a collection of 36 brand new Nine Inch Nails songs) he gave fans options for purchasing his music instead of forcing them all into one product. For example, He allowed fans to download the first 9 songs for free and distribute them legally. For $5.00 you could buy all 36 new songs along with a 46 page PDF. For $10 fans would receive a double CD set and a 16 page booklet, for $75.00 Reznor sold a Deluxe package that included the CD with many extra goodies all enclosed in a nice box and finally, he had his Ultra Deluxe Limited Edition Package that included a CD, DVD and Blu-Ray disc as well as a booklet and other goodies that all came in a nicely designed box signed personally by Trent Reznor. Most importantly of all, the Ultra Deluxe package was produced in very limited quantities (only 2500 made) which added rarity and value to the package and music (they consequently all sold out in less than 30 hours!). Trent ended up bringing in close to 2 million dollars in 1 week by connecting with his fans and giving them a reason to buy. Even though the album was initially free it managed to sell extremely well and became Amazon’s #1 best selling album of that year!

In summary, Trent has managed to create a business model that negates DRM, Lawsuits and even copyright. This model allows musicians to connect with their fans and give them a reason to buy while embracing the power of the internet and using free distribution as a positive advantage rather than a negative loss in revenue. It no doubt represents the future of the music business model for today.

So why not take a page from Trent and try out some of these guerilla marketing tactics? Who knows, maybe you’ll be benefiting sooner than you think.

For more information feel free to check out an interview with Trent Reznor on digg.com and a business conference presentation given by Michael Masnick on Trent Reznor’s business model which is posted below.


One comment

  1. Great post! Those are most definitely tactics that every musician should use! Absolutely!!

    I just started a Facebook Page dedicated to independent bands, artists and musicians that offers tips, tools & resources to effectively market & promote music.

    Become a fan 🙂

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