Zero Countdown

By Dan Aquilante for New York Post on April 17, 2007

April 17, 2007 -- NINE Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor believes that a whisper can be louder than a shout.

Rather than explain his new album "Year Zero" with the traditional visits to MTV, late-night television and magazine covers, Reznor masterminded a stealth publicity campaign that's been going on for a couple of months.

The clues, hidden on the back of NIN tour T-shirts and a series of Web sites, reveal an alt-reality rock opera about the year 2022, when the world is ruled by an authoritarian government.

Part scavenger hunt, part archeological dig, the back story has been unveiled one tidbit at a time.

Even though the album is out today, Reznor remains cagey about explaining too much of plot, or the inspiration.

"It's very tedious describing your own music," he says via e-mail. Still, Reznor admitted the genesis of the album was "an experiment with noise made on a laptop." And "those sounds led to a daydream about the end of the world, and that daydream stuck with me."

He added cryptically, "It will sound different after a few listens; you can think about it and it will reveal more than you were expecting."

The fans started thinking about it this winter when hardcore NIN devotees noticed the highlighted letters on the band's current tour T-shirts spelled the phrase (and song title) "I Am Trying To Believe." Take out the spaces between the words and add a ".com" at the end, and the door to Reznor's private "X-Files" swings open.

Reznor was sketchy about the plot of this concept album, saying it's about "a world where greed and power continue to run their likely course, and the world has reached the breaking point - politically, spir itually and ecologically."

The between-the-lines details are presented on a number of sites that ambitious Web rats have sussed out, including churchofpla no.com, anothervisonofthetruth.com, thepriceoftreason.net, 105thairbornecrusaders.com, and opensourceresistance.net.

Part of the success of this CD marketing campaign is the hive mentality of the band's fan base, where any and all information gathered seems to be immediately posted and shared on various fan sites and blogs.

And then there's the "this is not a game" feeling created by mixing in bits of reality. For instance, computer flash drives with real songs from today's release have been found by fans in concert hall lavatories in Europe, and a real phone number on another tour T-shirt played the song "Survivalism" when dialed.

Reznor won't talk about the game. Neither will Interscope or his crew.

Ultimately, there's no predicting how this marketing strategy will translate into album sales, but without traditional press or advertising, "Year Zero" debuts in the Top 10 this week. Maybe because of the game, or as Reznor said, "maybe because you can dance to a lot of it."


Transcribed by JessicaSarahS

View the NIN Hotline article index