JIN-510 -- When the fantasy is over

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J@pan Inc Newsletter
The 'JIN' J@pan Inc Newsletter
A weekly opinion piece on social, economic and political trends in Japan.
Issue No. 510 Tuesday June 16, 2009, Tokyo

Well that’s it. Trent Reznor has had enough. He’s quit Twitter. It
seems that things got a little too real for him… or for his fans, more
to the point. And so, after some nasty too-ing and fro-ing with fans,
the singer of industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails (NIN) decided to
pull the plug on his over-600,000 followers on the micro blogging
site.

A lot of people might be asking “Yeah? Who cares?” at this point but
Reznor’s departure from Twitter is interesting for two reasons.
Firstly, Reznor is one of the more tech-savvy, forward thinking
members of the music industry out there. It should be noted that
Reznor was one of the first major artists to take advantage of
changing distribution and promotional systems with the Nine Inch Nails
release of Ghosts I IV. The instrumental album was released on the
band’s Website in various forms from a free download of a 9-track
version to a $300 limited edition set. The album was released via
their Website and Amazon.com after the band’s contract with its
recording company ended. In one week NIN netted $1.6 million in
merchandising and album sales.

NIN’s web presence has been strong and Reznor himself has been a
prolific “tweeter” with, as mentioned before, over 600,000 followers.
But it seems that some fans didn’t like what they found. Which brings
me to my second point – how real is “too real”? In Japan celebrities
are marketed as essentially everyone’s friend – we see tarento on TV
variety shows where they are chatting away and making jokes at length.
In the US there has always been a distance kept between the idol and
the idol worshipper. Until now. And this is what caused problems for
Reznor. It seems, among other things a big problem was that Reznor
was, well in love.

Here are some of the tweets that infuriated angsty fans:

Reznor: “Now that I’m in love and gone all soft on you, can anyone
recommend any romantic comedies? Got a weird urge.”

And

Reznor: “I am missing someone. Boo hoo.”

And

Reznor: “Wait – I’m in love and getting married! I’d give you all free
tickets if I could. (hugs)”

You have to remember that this is from the author of albums with
titles such as “Pretty Hate Machine”, “Broken” and “The Downward
Spiral.”

Reznor was using Twitter the way it was intended and that was just to
be himself. But when a whole career has been spent creating and
marketing a nihilistic industrial rock god, public announcements of an
urge to watch romantic comedies and wanting to give “hugs,” aren’t
going to go down too well with some members of the fanbase. There were
proclamations of “selling out,” “going soft” and world’s being turned
“upside down.”

And so, in the end Reznor got sick of it all and pulled the plug on
his Twitter.

For celebrities, Twitter is a marketing tool. Everyone has got one
these days from MC Hammer to Barack Obama. But the idea of celebrity
Tweets is that they strip back the layers and present these idols
simply as people. But of course the allure of celebrities, is often
that they are untouchable. Millions of dollars are spent creating
fantasies that take ordinary people out of their ordinary lives and
when people are brought back to reality it can be a turn.

I’m happy for Reznor, it’s not 1992 anymore and it would be a real
downer if he was stuck there – for him and all his fans. Although
professing your love for Meg Ryan flicks isn’t about to gain me your
attention, being a real person is. In Internet land, people are
becoming more and more connected, but when it comes to marketing, how
real is too real?

Michael Condon
Editor-in-chief
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Title: Driving Tech Innovation: How Pornography helped
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http://www.fccj.or.jp/aboutus/map

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The Okayama seminar, entitled 'Innovative Business Leaders
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For registration send mail to seminar@japaninc.com
For more information please go to:
http://www.japaninc.com/seminars-july

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