Band surprises fans with "The Slip,"
single takes off on radio
On Sunday, May 4th, Trent Reznor was putting
the finishing touches on a new Nine Inch Nails album in his Los Angeles studio. Around 9:30
listening to the 10 tracks one last time, he sent them electronically to the
company that manages his Website. Just after midnight, The Slip — a raw, straight-up rock
record heavy on live drums, guitar and piano — appeared as a free download at
NIN.com, along with a message from Reznor: "Thank you for your continued
and loyal support over the years — this one's on me."
The Slip arrived just two months after NIN
released the instrumental Ghosts I-IV on their Website and seven months after
Reznor left his longtime label, Interscope. "This is the most fun we've
ever had," says NIN manager Jim Guerinot. "We've had 19 years of
training that you put a record together, you deliver it and then you
The surprise release follows similar moves by
the Raconteurs and Radiohead — and is the kind of thing Reznor has long wanted
to do. Two weeks before the album came out, he released a single,
"Discipline," to radio. Instead of hiring a radio-promotion team to
push the song, Reznor simply e-mailed it to programmers around the country.
"We got it and immediately put it on the air," says Shane Cox,
program director for WNFZ in Knoxville, Tennessee. "When I heard about the
band's plan, I wondered how it would work without the label pitch, label
promotion, label marketing, but it seems to work much quicker." The dark,
danceable tune, Reznor's most commercial single in years, has hit Number Nine
on the alternative-rock chart.
Even after releasing the single, the band
hadn't announced that it would be releasing The Slip. While labels typically
build up to an album release with multiple singles and a major press push,
Reznor has chosen to get music out as soon as he finishes it. "Internet
searches peak around the leak, not around the single or the album," says
Guerinot, who says physical copies of The Slip will hit stores in July.
"By the time the album comes out, it's done."
And without major-label constraints, Reznor has
taken high fidelity to new heights. The Slip is available in three levels of
sound quality: 320 kbps MP3s, CD-quality lossless files and high-res WAV files
that have twice the fidelity of CDs. "It's so high-resolution, it's not
even useful to most people, but for his audiophile fans, it satiates their
desire to have the highest quality possible," says Craig Johnston, a
programmer for Sudjam, the tech company that maintains the Nine Inch Nails
site. "The audio quality has absolutely been the top priority, and
everything revolves around that." (And as he's done in the past, Reznor
has made multitrack versions of the songs available for fans to remix.)
Guerinot — who also manages Gwen Stefani and
the Offspring — expects more acts to follow NIN's lead. "Big artists are
becoming available to do this," he says. "Those who don't have to
deal with labels are responding to their fan bases instead."