Nine Inch Nails : Access.

Town Crier IconFirst things first… this post is worth reading whether you’re a fan of Nine Inch Nails or not… Distilled down, this is about technology first and foremost, the latest tools in the hands of artists and innovators. Personally, I’ve been a fan since that cold, dark Halloween night back in ’89 when I listened to Pretty Hate Machine for the first time… and as revolutionary as that album was at the time, it’s amazing how far Trent Reznor and company have come since then.

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Most notably, every move they make these days can be considered nothing but extremely “fan friendly”, altruistic even… and as a big fan of both live and recorded music, unprecedented in my experience. NIN has shed any ‘major label’ affiliation, has given music away for free while making other offerings available digitally far below current market pricing… they’ve gone out of there way to keep ticket prices down and out of the hands of brokers… and on their current tour, which starts this Friday (05/08) in West Palm Beach, FL, have instituted a “relaxed” policy regarding cameras and audio recorders that I’ve simply never heard of before…

But that’s not what this post is about… Instead, what I’m interested in here is the recently released nin : access free application for the iPhone, which I’ve been playing around with since it came out mid-April and find totally intriguing… not just as a NIN fan… but for the possibilities it both implies and inspires.

nin : access is really an application in two parts. The first side of things, although cool, isn’t that revolutionary… it merely serves up nin.com to the iPhone in a consolidated interface independent of Safari… which is nice because it’s pre-optimized for the small screen… But what Reznor was really interested in trying to engage were the quarter of a million registered users of the nin.com forums in the context of taking his band on the road this Spring/Summer… this leads us to the second half of the application which is where the innovation really takes flight.

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Apparently the idea was born last Summer when Reznor was backstage before a show fooling around with his iPhone and noticed that fans outside waiting in line were posting photos of the scene to the nin forums… in response he started posting photos from backstage. The awesome interactivity of this experience got him thinking… what would it take to put an interface on this process? The result, less than a year later is nin: access, a mobile window into all things nin: music, photos, videos, message boards and even, thanks to a GPS-enabled feature called Nearby… the fans themselves.

Nearby is “kind of like Twitter within the Nine Inch Nails network,” says Rob Sheridan, Reznor’s long-time collaborator. “You can post a message or a photo by location, and if you’re at a show you can see conversations between other people who are right there.”

Check out this Wired video if you’re interested in a tour of the application from its creators… the first half of the video covers the more garden-variety features of the application… the explanation for the really cool GPS-enabled features start at the 3:20 mark…

What ends up being the coolest aspect of the nin : access approach to me… is that the entity is not trying to control the experience of the masses. They’re more or less simply harnessing existing technologies and API’s… and allowing the legions of dedicated fans to converse, populate, market, influence, etc… It’s Trent Reznor’s vision of where popular music is headed… and I’ll be damned if he’s not on to something… I know he’s making me more of a fan… I’m happy.

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And last, you don’t need an iPhone to check out how this all works… it can be experienced right on the web at access.nin.com… although you will need to download and install the Google Earth plug-in… and your home computer is most likely not GPS-enabled, so you’ll also have to pinpoint your location on the planet to hone in on local conversations… but those two things will just take an extra few minutes and are well worth the result… I’ve tested this on Safari and Firefox within MacOS and all works fine. I’m sure a suitable experience will be had by our PC brethren as well.

Check this out if you have the inclination… GPS-enabling could easily turn out to be a significant part of where social networking is headed. I’d write about some of the ideas I’ve been having… but currently, patents are still pending ;-) Enjoy!

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