In the mid-to-late 1990s, Nine Inch Nails had nearly become a household name. The band’s creator, front man and driving force, Trent Reznor, had become the icon of goth kids and aspiring musicians everywhere. Even today, Nine Inch Nails remain popular and while the majority of their lasting power is located within Reznor’s music, it has also been his ability to genuinely brand his music and band in a way that almost no other musicians has been able to do.
Chances are that even if you’re not a fan of Reznor’s music, you’ve seen the logo for his band. There aren’t many bands out there—if any—that can use a symbol of sorts for their band’s name and have people recognize it.
Reznor was able to do this with Nine Inch Nails because of his devoted fan base, but also his ability to incorporate his base branding efforts into each album and even video that he released. From tee shirts to bumper stickers, from desktop wallpapers to entire websites, his band’s logo is widely known in the music world.
But it’s not just that Reznor has created music that almost two generations have been able to enjoy. He has also become involved in other areas of the music industry. He helped lead the increasingly popular “name your price” downloads direct from an artist’s website, allowing his fans to purchase new albums for free. He also has a platform (also free) that allows fans to download the actual musical tracks from his recordings and make remixes of them.
Furthermore, tired of the way the record company was over-charging his fans for his music, he ended a lucrative contract and started releasing albums for much cheaper under his own label.
And all the while, he even stepped away from Nine Inch Nails for a while to win a Grammy Award for his score on The Social Network.
All of these ground breaking and unorthodox approaches to music are true of his brand because fans of his music know that his music is the same way: ground breaking and unorthodox.
So with Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor has created more than just a band—he had created a brand. And that is something that musicians have always tried to do and ultimately failed.
Are there any other musicians that you can think of that approach their music as a brand rather than just something to listen to?