Art Is Resistance
I have broken a golden rule in my challenge. I have been listening to a commercial music track. In the back of my head there is a band which in 2008 ignited a change in my mind. I had not given the idea of legally free music a lot of thought, that was not the way that I had come in contact with free music. Back then, the name of Nine Inch Nails, released its album Ghosts I-IV under the Creative Commons license.
BEFORE GHOSTS THERE WAS THE YEAR ZERO
But the band tried with a similar project before, however this time in another situation, with a different setup and starting position. This album had a very interesting marketing campaign which involved an ARG (Alternative Reality Game) which included sites like, I Am Trying To Believe, Art Is Resistance and Open Source Resistance, which were masked to seem independent. They were all a part of a well planned scheme to raise attention for the release as fans started making noise about it and to upload material from their participation in the ARG such as this underground concert video where unreleased songs were peformed. The video down below is another video which ends with a very interesting features that is a part of the ARG.
Nine Inch Nails – We’re In This Together & The Frail (Live OSR Meeting)
Year Zero was released in 2007 under Interscope Records, a part of Universal Music Group conglomerate which priced the album too expensive and the band actually encouraged fans to steal the album. Later in 2007, the band’s contract with the record label ran out and the band looked forward to be involved in a “direct relationship with the audience” that could be managed seamlessly now in an independent manner. Throughout the living era of the band, fanmade remix sites such as NINRemixes where fans can access source files have been encouraged by Trent Reznor who stated that “there is no agenda here” and then started the band’s own remix site for fans to manipulate the works. There was also a contest encouraging remixes of album songs which later were released as a torrent album named “The Limitless Potential” which can be torrented here and downloaded as a RAR-archive.
From the visual work in Ghosts I-IV release. Released by Nine Inch Nails under Creative Commons license BY-NC-SA
GHOSTS SLIP THROUGH EVERYBODY’S MIND
What started with Year Zero can have fueled enough marketing to get attention to help a self-sufficient release of Ghosts I-IV. The band let Ghosts I free, legally. Once this generated enough attention, it had the rest consumed from the varied sorts of limited editions sold out in analog and digital formats in which the procreation was available in. That itself was very different from what other releases had been like. As Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails writes on the official Ghosts website, the concept had had a broader perspective and was throughout the process a collaboration and a project different from other musical albums. It was the perfect timing for the idea;
“I’ve been considering and wanting to make this kind of record for years, but by its very nature it wouldn’t have made sense until this point. This collection of music is the result of working from a very visual perspective – dressing imagined locations and scenarios with sound and texture; a soundtrack for daydreams. I’m very pleased with the result and the ability to present it directly to you without interference. I hope you enjoy the first four volumes of Ghosts.”
One can diminish certain features which are apparent to be coincidentally present in this project as it often is in open source projects where collaboration is key. Many creative minds such as long-time collaborators Atticus Ross, Alan Moulder along with guest artists such as guitarist Adrian Belew, Buchla-artist Alessandro Cortini, drummer Brian Viglione, as well as Rob Sheridan who teamed up with Artists in Residence, were all contributing and they produced the whole project in mere 10 weeks.
Alessandro Cortini & Atticus Ross. Licensed by Nine Inch Nails under Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA.
Nominated for Best Indie Album and Best Rock Performance, it was the first time ever that works licensed under Creative Commons attributions received those kinds of appreciation.The album was released without any advertisement and it can be argued that it lived on the ideas and new notions that the Year Zero album had inaugurated people to. Even without any specific advertisement for the album, it sold quite thoroughly throughout the year and became the best selling on Amazon digital sales in 2008. One week after the release, the project expanded into another phase being the “Ghosts Film Festival“. It was not
said out loud in the announcement on YouTube that was made by Trent Reznor but the idea was basically to a circulation of music videos that users created and shared themselves which could create a viral marketing campaign by itself.
Guitarist Adrian Belew in the studio. Licensed by Nine Inch Nails under Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA.
With the release of The Slip and following tour, a fan-made open sourced concert footage was promoted by the band and
embraced by its fans, turning the material into a free concert video also distributed as a DVD. One could argue that the band became the first open sourced band utilizing fans participation in major throughout the latter years of activity. The album The Slip was not acknowledged in the same positive way and had lost its stargaze – as far as commercial interests saw as it became more marginalized in the independent sphere. But that was not the intention, it was an album that could stand tall as a thankful gift for the fans’ cult-like devotion since the late 1980s when the band was founded. There was a new time that would inspire many others.
You can stream the entire works at Archive.org where one also can download numerous variations such as the open formats .OGG and .FLAC.
From the artwork in the limited editions of Ghosts I-IV. Released by Nine Inch Nails, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA.
HOW TO DESTROY ANGELS – AND PLANT DEMON SEEDS
It has had its effects on the music industry, indirectly as more bands such as Radiohead competed with Nine Inch Nails in 2008 about who had the most interesting marketing campaign but also directly with the future of the band itself. I think that the band has been able to put a couple of different terms at the table since last time they had any contracts with larger record labels. With the release of Ghosts I-IV they showed the world that there are numerous ways to work with the release of an album. Sometimes it can be revolutionary to the industry to show what kind of terms an artist can agree on, which emphasizes the importance of the circle of the product. From an open and collaborative production process, to letting the art’s expression reach listeners who are free to manipulate and expand on their own ideas but more importantly letting its independence from selling goals be a statement in the medial noise of profit-driven music industry in the informational age.
The band has successfully got the record label to agree on more consumer friendly with wider options with a larger range of pricing for their latest EP released today. It also features free streaming through other platforms and fans can get in direct contact with the band through Twitter which follows the open path that the band built during their time as a free agent on the market. One can also notice how the video of the single “Keep it together” itself is a work based upon New Order’s “The Perfect Kiss“, as one can notice a similar visual language presented. One can argue it is a sort of a remix of the video but reinterpreted and adapted to 2012.
Now working with the new band, one can see similarities in the structure of how the project works. Atticus Ross is now a member of the band and not a producer involved in the background. Rob Sheridan is now in the band as a member working mostly with visuals, similar to what he did for the Ghosts I-IV, The Slip and the tours following those releases. Now they’re back in the old costume manners with the typical record label Columbia, however they are not doing business-as-usual. They are doing what the music industry in most cases have started to adapt to but the band have brought their way of communicating and price modelling with them because they know from the previous releases that it is a working concept which fans and new listeners will enjoy.
Even though the Ghosts I-IV and The Slip releases were not released with commercial licenses, the way of launching them and with help generated from the Year Zero release and other releases in 2007 made it a more profitable work. As a free agent, the band could draw from previous successful marketing strategies and create chaos in a business where there was too much order. And throughout the process, before, under and post-release, they got a lot of attention drawn to them because of the open sourced ways of working, in contrast to former situations. Art is Resistance, and open sourcing the music industry is a way of letting consumers to become more than listeners. By collaborating in this unorthodox fashion, artists and fans create an ecosystem which provides income for the artist and interesting ways for the fans to get involved and to contribute with something of their own.
One of those demon seeds they planted was this challenge.