Thursday, April 9, 2009

Prince v. Trent

Although their music generally doesn't operate in the same sphere, there's a lot in common between Prince and Nine Inch Nails. Both had recent returns to form (Musicology and 3121 for the former and With Teeth and Year Zero for the latter) and both have stepped up their attempt at innovation recently.

Prince has been trying to get digital since he put out a failed CD-Rom in 1994. Since liberating himself from Warner Brothers, he has gone all over the map and release a lot of music of varying quality. Hell, he gave away the Planet Earth album with newspapers. He has also experimented with various digital fan clubs and content sites over the years. They seem to come and go each regularly, and this time around he has "LOtUSFLOW3R" which gives you three albums and possibly awesome digital content for $77. Depending on what that digital content is, it may be worth it. Supposedly a lot of awesome concert recordings are involved. Prince is still a great live draw. I saw him on the Musicology tour, and it reinforced how deep his catalogue is.

After finally getting away from Interscope, Trent Reznor has put out about as much material as his first decade in just a year. His varied distribution scheme for Ghost I-IV was not only as interesting and well executed as Radiohead, but he also made loads of money. Between digital downloads and the snazzy $250 version of the album, he probably cleared a cool million on the project. Plus he followed it up by giving away a pretty excellent follow up, The Slip, and then launching one of the most ambitions tours of all time. Lights in the Sky was one of the finest live experience I've ever seen. Besides the numerous tricks they could pull off with the responsive screen (playing it like a sequencer, projecting live footage onto it instantly, turning it into a moving wall of static) the show also demonstrated a range in Nine Inch Nails that many fail to acknowledge.

Now Trent is on the forefront of technology again with a pretty ambitious iPhone app. While I probably wouldn't use most of the functionality, the free app is more proof that bands with an established fanbase can really stretch out in all directions, even beyond the music. For example, the Year Zero was also an alternate reality game.

I think NIN have the edge right now, and that may be because band and the fanbase are a bit younger than Prince's. But both acts should be commended for pushing things forward.

1 comment:

Jason Heat said...

This was a very well written and informative post and my response is probably more of a philosophical issue than is really needed here but I wonder why as a society we always have to frame things in termns of competition, and not rather two wholly unique elements both simply on the cutting edge of a new trend and in that way working in a sort of cohesive symetry?

I also wonder if I'll ever love a band enough to use an iphone app like that.

Then I remember I don't have an iphone and cry and cry and cry.