transmedia research ‘Year Zero’

The Transmedia Campaign by the Band Nine Inch Nails called “Ground Zero”.

In 2006, to accompany his upcoming Nine Inch Nails album, “Year Zero,” singer  Trent Reznor with the help  of 42 Entertainment created this campaign to expand his concept of a dystopian future beyond the album.

What i find powerful about this campaign is how the band used the campaign as a statement to their record label. (the CD named Ground Zero was to be the last CD recording to be made with their current record company because their contract was finishing).

The music industry (including their record label) attempted to add an access control technology called Digital Rights Management (DRM). DRM limited the consumers to copy their music file to transfer to other media devices. For example, Apple’s iTunes has applied DRM to every music and movie file they sold at their Web site. This prohibits the users from creating back-ups for the DVD’s and music downloaded from the music store.

They intentionally  leaked previously unrecorded songs online and onto the usb drives left in the toilets at concert venues to which fans could upload onto the internet and use to create mash ups and remixes of their work. The metadata tag on the songs contained  clues that led to a site displaying a glowing wheat field, with the legend “America Is Born Again.” Clicking and dragging the mouse across the screen revealed a much grimmer looking site labeled “Another Version of the Truth.” Clicking on that led to a forum about acts of underground resistance.

One of the  main pieces of interactive content is itself the CD. It is designed to be searched deciphered, analysed and puzzled over.

The disc itself changes colour with heat……it turns white and reveals a long string of ones and zeros..these can then be decrypted. The deeper you choose to delve into it.. and the music, the more richly rewarded the participant will be.

Introduction & Background

It began with a message coded into a t-shirt. It quickly grew into an online scavenger hunt with some thirty unique Web sites phone calls, murals, USB drives left in bathrooms at concerts across Europe and an underground “Art Is Resistance” movement, which culminated in a secret concert that was raided by a SWAT team.

It was an alternative reality “game” with more than 3 million players. A concept of a not-so-distant  future plagued by environmental collapse and endless holy wars. A future where drugs are laced into the water supplies in order to control the masses. A future where art and music are weapons of resistance. A concept that begs to question: what if the future is now?

Art is Resistance

The Art is REsistance movement started with a flyer at a European concert. This phase of the experience aimed to give the players the tools to recruit the rest of the world and provided a present day gathering place. This is where they gave their fans direct ownership in Year Zero to incorporate their thoughts, actions and feelings to the world. The fans then took it and spread their voices onto the streets and onto the virtual worlds they played in. The fans quickly spread the world of Year Zero across the globe straight from their keyboards. Through message boards, music news sites, personal blogs, video uploads, photo sharing and other community apps.

In 2006, to accompany his upcoming Nine Inch Nails album, “Year Zero,” singer  Trent Reznor with the help  of 42 Entertainment to expand his concept of a dystopian future beyond the album.

Timeline of Events:

The Year Zero project involved 30 Web sites, strategically placed USB drives, hidden messages and a movement of itself. The following is a timeline of the events that occured (some were left out, as they were not quite as important):

February 12, 2007

Fans deciphered a t-shirt where certain letters were highlighted. These letters spelled out “I am trying to believe” which led to a Web site

Other Web sites were found by tracking similar Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and referencing the album’s track list. These Web sites included:,, and

February 14, 2007

A USB flash drive containing an mp3 of “My Violent Heart” was found in a bathroom at a concert in Portugal. By reading the file through a spectrograph, the static at the end of the song actually showed the picture of a hand reaching down from the sky, which would be known as “The Presence.”

February 19, 2007

A second USB flash drive containing the song “Me I’m Not” and a second mp3 of static was found in a bathroom at a concert in Spain. When the static track was put through a spectrograph, it spelled out the phone number 1-216-333-1810.

February 22, 2007

Fliers leading to the Web site are handed out at a concert in France.

February 25, 2007

A third USB flash drive containing the song “In This Twilight” and a second file with an image of a Hollywood sign was found in a bathroom at a concert in England. The image of the Hollywood sign would lead to

March 7, 2007

A USB drive containing the video to Year Zero’s first single, “Survivalism,” was distributed at a concert in England. The video led to discovery of the Web sites:, and

March 11, 2007

Fliers with directions to a billboard under a bridge were handed out at a concert in England. The billboard led to discovery of and

Lithographs were handed out at a party to people who had pre-ordered the album, leading to discovery of

E-mails sent out to fans, leading to discovery of

April 13, 2007

There is an “Art Is Resistance” meeting in Los Angeles. Kits containing cell phones, bandannas, buttons and other things are handed out to those attending.

April 13-25, 2007

Year Zero is released in Europe (13), Australia (14), the UK (16), the United States (17) and Japan (25).

April 18, 2007

Fans are invited to a free concert in Los Angeles via the free cell phones from the “Art Is Resistance” kits. The concert is raided by a fake SWAT team, and the events are videotaped.

April 27, 2007

Fans who received free cell phones from the Art Is Resistance kits receive a phone call which leads to



  1. […] protagonistas de este fenómeno, como James Cameron y la gente detrás del fenomeno transmedia Year Zero realizado para el álbum de Nine Inch […]

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