You may have forgotten about Apple's tiny, wireless iPod-linked in-shoe pedometer, the Nike+, but the runners who've chalked up 100 million miles haven't. And neither has Nike--it just partnered with De La Soul to release a new album.
Are You In?: Nike+ Original Run is the group's first original material in five years, and it's going to be an iTunes exclusive. Seeing one of hip-hop's most influential acts drop its latest tracks on marathoners is certainly unexpected. Is it a sign of desperation, or smarts?
The press release doesn't make much of a case for the smarts: it's filled with terrible marketing cliches. The band is "psyched" to provide some "sonic fuel" to get "bodies moving." The partnership with Nike isn't exactly new for the band--they've previously designed signature versions of the Dunk SB shoe, and performed at Nike events. This was a natural extension: "When an opportunity presents itself, and it's challenging, it's tasteful and it actually opens doors to new listeners, a new audience, we're up for it," is how founding member David Jude Jolicoeur (aka Trugoy the Dove) put it.
Nike appears to have had input on the music too, since the company gave direction on the feel of the tracks, and even had a group of test-runners put the music through its paces. The album is crafted to match the mood of a run: it's continuous, so you don't lose pace between tracks, and tailored to fit the "arc" of a run.
Still, given the sorry state of traditional music sales right now, it's tough to argue with the market-minded approach De La Soul is taking here. The final product, which also features material from DJ duo Flosstradamus is a "full-length" 45-minute album that will be guaranteed a built-in audience, and front-page placement from both Nike and Apple. Are You In?: Nike+ Original Run is out tomorrow for $9.99 on iTunes.