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Nine Inch Nails Alternate-Reality Game Promotes New Album, Tour

To promote new album "Year Zero," Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor is using a multimedia scavenger hunt that leads fans to online destinations, reports CNN. The campaign will encompass everything from cryptic phrases on T-shirts to Orwellian Web sites to MP3s found on USB drives in bathrooms at NIN concerts.

A source with knowledge of the project says Reznor perceives it all not as a marketing campaign but as "a new entertainment form." 42 Entertainment is helping to create the experience; that's the agency behind 2005's "alternate-reality game" promoting the Halo 2 videogame for the XBox.

"Year Zero" came to life in early February, when web-savvy fans discovered that highlighted letters inside words on a NIN tour T-shirt spelled out "I am trying to believe." Savvy fans added a ".com" to the five words and, voila, located a thought-provoking, eerie website.

The source says the campaign forms the body of the "Year Zero" experience: "It is the CD booklet come to life. It precedes the concept album and the tour. And it will continue for the next 18 months, with peaks and valleys." The source continues, "No one has assembled the full story yet. The new media is creating the story as it goes."

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