Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor knows a few things about music and the industry around it. He’s successfully severed himself from the label machine, and continues to thrive as an artist. He is one of the lucky ones.
In a new interview, Trent talked and talked and talked about his new projects, and the music industry and its general failings.
“The record deal that we had signed [with Interscope] years and years before had escalating advances based on the current state of the industry when that was negotiated,” says Reznor. “Meanwhile, the industry has collapsed, and those advances didn’t make any sense for the record label at that point. They were astronomical compared to what an expected return would be. We were kind of presented with the situation of, ‘Hey, if you wanna stay here, let’s renegotiate something that’s more realistic for us in terms of an advance, or, do it on your own.’”
At that time, around 2008, Reznor said the music industry felt broken to him.
“I’d go through periods of having to look in the mirror and say, ‘Let’s see. I just made an album I spent a year working on. I turned it over to the record label to get manufactured. It leaked, and I’m online, just boiling furious, at fans who’re talking about how much they love this new album, that they just stole.’ And then I’d think, ‘Wait a minute. They’re not standing outside my house, bootlegging copies out the back of their van, y’know, to make money. They’re sharing their excitement about songs I’ve written, and music I’ve done. And they’re excited about it. And I’m pissed off at ‘em, because what? They didn’t wait until a month from now, when they’d have to drive to a record shop (if they can find one,) to buy a piece of plastic they don’t want, then rip it back to their computers, to…man, this sucks. OK, something’s not right.’
“Or they can buy it from iTunes at a lower bit quality, which at that time was also copy protected, which I was strongly against. It becomes very clear, if you can remove the emotion from the equation, that, OK. The delivery system is broken. And the relationship between fans and artists and record labels is also broken. I thought I was smart enough to get that right. What I learned is it consumed… The following years coming up to the present, have been spent trying to experiment with different business models.
“First and foremost, spending time paying attention to what consumers want. You know, it all sounds like market research and boring marketing-type crap, and it is, but it also became clear: nobody else has figured it out. And managers aren’t gonna tell us what to do, and record labels, it’s clear they don’t know what to do. And the internet at large, their proposition that everything should just be free? That’s great if you’re a kid at home, it’s not so great if you’re a content provider that’s thinking ‘OK, how am I supposed to keep doing this if everything is just free?’ That’s not right, in my opinion.
“But nobody wants to be Metallica and, stand up and [say] ‘Hey, on the one hand look how rich I am. On the other hand hey man, you should be paying me, poor college kid.’ Nobody wants to be on that side of the argument, including them.”
Read more from that interview here.
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