Axl RoseTrent ReznorThe marketing scheme of the recent NINE INCH NAILS album Year Zero is well known by now; Trent Reznor “leaked” a few tracks well before the release of the album by leaving USB flash drives with mp3s on them in bathroom stalls throughout Europe. The songs then made their way across the Internet, giving the fans what they wanted, and Reznor even made the entire album available for streaming before it was officially out. Reznor’s innovative marketing techniques continue with a recent announcement that three NIN-sanctioned mp3s have been posted on the BitTorrent site Pirate Bay.

Since GUNS N’ ROSES frontman Axl Rose and Trent Reznor are both the sole leaders and songwriters of their respective “bands,” both have been making music for approximately the same amount of time, and both are public but mysterious figures, I think a comparison is warranted; Axl should take a good hard look at what Trent is doing and jot down some notes in a hurry.

Trent Reznor has continued to push the envelope with the way he maintains a relationship between himself, the music, and the fans. This started with the release of 2005’s With Teeth, when he refused to include any sort of liner notes with the CD package, instead directing curious listeners to an intricately constructed website that was itself more an experience than simply a website. He then made two of the songs from the album available in multi-track format for use in the music recording software Garageband, and held a contest awarding a prize to the best remix. If this isn’t innovative and totally awesome, I don’t know what is: even those not-so-musically-inclined folk could take delight in singling out the guitar tracks in the mix, fooling around with Reznor’s vocals, or distorting the hell out of the bass track.

Axl Rose on the other hand has kept the reigns extremely tight on anything Chinese Democracy related. Every time a leak of an unfinished Guns N’ Roses mix hits the ‘net, Rose sends out his Internet goblins to immediately quash them. Not only does this anger his fans but it continually makes him look like a jackass, as if that wasn’t already a huge problem. With regards to Rose wanting fans to hear only the finished, proper mixes of the songs, I call bullshit. Let’s be honest, if he really wanted them to be finished they’d be finished LONG ago. Furthermore, fans delight in hearing rough versions of songs; it’s good PR, and frankly Rose could use a little bit of that right now.

I realize that the comparison isn’t necessarily apples to apples because Reznor’s campaign is in support of a specific album with a hard release date, while Rose doesn’t yet have anything firm, but the fact of the matter is that in the new age of the Internet you need to give the fans what they want. Anyone can have anything instantly, and Axl Rose needs to realize that there is no sense in trying to stop it. The major labels are crumbling, less people are buying records. It’s OVER; the old model of selling records for a huge markup is dead. Geffen Records had spent a reported $13 million on this album before they cut Rose off, and I’m sure Rose has burned an additional several million of his own money since then. When and if Axl finally puts out Chinese Democracy he will have to recoup every bit of that $13 million, plus whatever marketing / video / etc dollars the label spends! That’s insane! He’s never going to see a cent from record sales. He needs to realize this, move on, let the Internet do its thing, and make money by touring the world to sold out arenas like Trent Reznor has in the last few years.

In short, Reznor has embraced the new world of the music business while Rose is still living in denial. Axl, take note, you could learn a thing or two from Trent Reznor.


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