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"If I could do what I want right now, I would put out my next album, you could download it from my site at as high a bit-rate as you want, pay $4 through PayPal."
October 9, 2007 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails plans to join Radiohead in the self-distribution game. Reznor's public feud with Interscope records reached its head recently; the musician was forced to finance the alternate reality game promotion of Year Zero himself and was shocked at the record label's pricing in Australia. With the release of Year Zero Remixed, Reznor will be free to go his own way.
posted by beaucoupkevin (59 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
The more the merrier.
posted by blucevalo at 9:22 AM on October 9, 2007


Actually, he said he's free of recording contracts and made no statements regarding his plans whatsoever, outside of the fact that, as he put it, "..gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a
direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate."

Since the Pitchfork article basically quoted his entire blog post, a link to his site might be useful since that is where he would follow up.
posted by mikeh at 9:28 AM on October 9, 2007


Is his sound better now?

I don't wanna dump on him (I loved The Fragile), but With Teeth was really 'meh'..
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:32 AM on October 9, 2007


Love this trend....
posted by LooseFilter at 9:33 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


cowbellemoo, if you didn't like With Teeth (I don't know when I last listened to it now), Year Zero is definitely worth a try, it's far more interesting, and basically, better...
It's certainly a more cohesive album.
posted by opsin at 9:41 AM on October 9, 2007


i find it so disappointing (and Trent mentions this) that the t-shirt has become the end product. not the music: the t-shirt.

c'mon people, buy your music. (you spend $5 on a latte that lasts 10 minutes. why not spend $10 on music that you'll listen to for hours?)
posted by neuph at 9:50 AM on October 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


Is there any reason why any huge band would want to stay with a record company? Seems any band with enough cash on hand to finance their next release/tour would want out of their contract as soon as possible so they could do this.
posted by bondcliff at 9:51 AM on October 9, 2007


I was traveling across the country and stopped into a McDonald's for a quick breakfast. In line ahead of me was some guy with a Further Down the Spiral t-shirt... tucked in.

Tucked in!
posted by ODiV at 9:57 AM on October 9, 2007 [8 favorites]


Like I always point out, they're the recording industry, not the recording artists.
posted by Down10 at 10:02 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


i find it so disappointing (and Trent mentions this) that the t-shirt has become the end product.

After hearing someone on NPR talking about how most bands make their money from merchandise sales instead of music sales, I've started to wonder at what point do you go from being a band making a music, to a band making advertisements for t-shirts.
posted by drezdn at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


Also, the last NIN concert I attended, the t-shirts were $30 each. Who's kidding who?
posted by Down10 at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


ODiV writes "I was traveling across the country and stopped into a McDonald's for a quick breakfast. In line ahead of me was some guy with a Further Down the Spiral t-shirt... tucked in."

Yeah, I saw a middle aged guy with a Godsmack shirt on the other day. I don't even like Godsmack, but that made me feel old.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:05 AM on October 9, 2007


There's a Korn promo running on On Demand where the lead singer is talking about seeing parents who grew up on Korn taking their kids to shows. I've never felt so old.
posted by empath at 10:21 AM on October 9, 2007


NIN albums, ranked in order, best to worst:

1. The Downward Spiral
2. Broken
3. The Fragile
4. Year Zero
5. Pretty Hate Machine
6. With Teeth

The remix albums... meh..
posted by empath at 10:24 AM on October 9, 2007


While it's definitely an option for already-internationally-known acts like NIN and Radiohead to go it alone, I wonder what publicity/distribution/etc. system will supplant the current corporate structure; I imagine it will rise out of the nascent grassroots marketing and word of mouth already prevalent on social networks and the like. But that remains an unanswered question: without the (rightly loathed) recording industry, how will we all find new, quality music, without having to spend hours and hours sorting through meh music to do so?

(I wonder sometimes if bigger acts like Radiohead or NIN won't become patrons themselves, establishing channels for lesser-known acts to gain visibility....)
posted by LooseFilter at 10:36 AM on October 9, 2007


There's a Korn promo running on On Demand where the lead singer is talking about seeing parents who grew up on Korn taking their kids to shows. I've never felt so old.

Eh, you really shouldn't. The average Korn fan begins reproducing around his/her sophomore year of high school; by now, many of them are probably grandparents.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:38 AM on October 9, 2007 [3 favorites]


I've seen Nine Inch Nails on two occasions and heard their music many times -- but I never really loved it -- it's rather formulaic anger and angst to me.

That said, I think Reznor's a decent guy and I'm glad he's doing this.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:40 AM on October 9, 2007


Any talk of Reznor paying potential listeners $4 to listen to his album? I'm pretty sure I'd still skip it. I'm broke and all but...um...no thank you.
posted by jotrock at 10:44 AM on October 9, 2007


" ... why not spend $10 on music that you'll listen to for hours?"

Years even.
posted by itchylick at 10:46 AM on October 9, 2007


Previously
posted by phaedon at 10:49 AM on October 9, 2007


It's been well documented that artists end up only making penny's on each album sold through the major label system. So even if NIN or Radiohead only sell a fraction of what they normally would have, they'll be coming out ahead.
posted by sleavestherabbit at 10:54 AM on October 9, 2007


I sweartagod I did a search of previous threads. Dangit.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 10:58 AM on October 9, 2007


Barking Pumpkin
posted by chuckdarwin at 11:00 AM on October 9, 2007


Oddly Year Zero is the only album I've purchased in the past 8 years....mostly for the thermal coating that changes the CD's color after its been playing awhile (plus I like Trent's style of being so free with people remixing his work...felt compelled to support the cause).

The albumn's theme is of an Orwellian dystopian future...tho I'm sure he based it off of his current views of the Iraq war...not a bad album really, also not as self involved as his prevoius works, which some fans like...some preferred the angst.
posted by samsara at 11:00 AM on October 9, 2007


So, even Reznor's biting the hand that feeds...

People seem to think that bands don't need the labels. Without the labels, Reznor wouldn't have been able to put out With Teeth, because he would've gone broke years ago when Pretty Hate Machine failed from lack of marketing.

I'm all for ditching the labels, but they do provide valuable exposure for bands who are just starting out. I know who Britney Spears is, after all, but I can't name one band fighting for room on a myspace page.
posted by schlaager at 11:05 AM on October 9, 2007


Without the labels, Reznor wouldn't have been able to put out With Teeth, because he would've gone broke years ago when Pretty Hate Machine failed from lack of marketing.

I'm all for ditching the labels, but they do provide valuable exposure for bands who are just starting out. I know who Britney Spears is, after all, but I can't name one band fighting for room on a myspace page.


Are you saying you don't know ANY unsigned acts by name? I don't know if I'm just that cool, or if this is a generational change, but I have no need for labels to get exposure to music, and in fact I almost never listen to the regular radio. It's all MySpace, last.fm and hastily torrented flights of fancy. based on a list of things I've heard of that I want to hear, (presently reads Tammy Faye, Traffic and Weather, Apoptygma Berzerk, Dusty Springfield, Strawberry Switchblade, Shakespear's Sister, Year Zero) and if I like them I go see them play and/or buy their albums. I think this is a pretty popular schema these days, what with MYV's failure especially. Maybe little acts like Jeffrey Lewis and Grand Buffet will never get Britbrit's level of fame and fortune, but that market was basically overinflated to begin with.

Also, Trent Reznor is free to go my way anytime.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:21 AM on October 9, 2007


Reznor's public feud with Interscope records reached its head recently

I don't think "reached its head" works as well as "reached a head" . To me, the "head" in the phrase isn't a body part, it's a culmination or climax. More to the point, there could conceivably be more than one such, so the singular seems a bit off.

Of course it's being pedantic and of course it doesn't really matter. The fact that someone may show up to argue the point (and do it well) is one of my favorite things about MetaFilter.
posted by freebird at 11:22 AM on October 9, 2007


fuck. yeah.
posted by dopamine at 11:26 AM on October 9, 2007


Pretty Hate Machine failed from lack of marketing

????????????

Maybe I'm just old now, but damn, there was no lack of marketing on that one. That album was EVERYWHERE when I was in high school.

Also, as in all threads about Trent Reznor, I must add my two favorite tidbits: one, my father remembers him being a surly clerk at a local record store and two, he totally checked out my ass at a show once. Like, staring.

So at least he has good taste in asses.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 11:26 AM on October 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


I wonder sometimes if bigger acts like Radiohead or NIN won't become patrons themselves, establishing channels for lesser-known acts to gain visibility....

This is exactly what I bet will happen. Just as digital distribution moved music "back to the past" by making singles more important than albums, you'll start to see things like "the new single from Dethblow, hosted by nin.com" just like you had Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:29 AM on October 9, 2007


c'mon people, buy your music. (you spend $5 on a latte that lasts 10 minutes. why not spend $10 on music that you'll listen to for hours?)

I've got a better idea. Why don't they think up a way to distribute coffee over the internet. Then I won't have to pay for that either.
posted by ND¢ at 11:34 AM on October 9, 2007 [8 favorites]


Well that's good to know.
posted by cowbellemoo at 11:35 AM on October 9, 2007


(I wonder sometimes if bigger acts like Radiohead or NIN won't become patrons themselves, establishing channels for lesser-known acts to gain visibility....)

Yeah, I think that can work just fine. As "albums" which are already cheap CDs become nothing but digital downloads, "labels" become unnecessary.

In the NPR interview the other day, the discussion questioned whether the Radiohead scheme (pay whatever you want to pay, plus a $1 transaction fee) could work beyond the first album they do this with.

I suggest there is an easy way to tweak the model to make it works for future albums: announce that the album will be auctioned online weekly, and that the band will accept, say, the top 60% of all bids submitted that week, and that they will announce each week's cutoff price. This should insure a reasonable average price by discouraging bids of 2 cents plus the $1 fee. When sales peter out or the average price drops too low, they can just switch to a set price. (Selling via a label bands make about $2 per CD, so clearly it doesn't take much to do better with direct online sales.)
posted by beagle at 11:42 AM on October 9, 2007


Maybe I'm just old now, but damn, there was no lack of marketing on that one. That album was EVERYWHERE when I was in high school.

bittergirl, you misunderstood me. I'm saying that at the time, Pretty Hate Machine would have failed without the support of the label. Remember, this was back in the days of no internet as we know it.

Same goes for Radiohead. When the internet was in its infancy, they would've died a quick death without the label supporting them.
posted by schlaager at 11:56 AM on October 9, 2007


What is this, I love the 90s? Lots of great acts have become famous through internet self-distribution in the past few years. Sure it's great that Radiohead and NIN are following suit, but why wouldn't they? Sticking with the old media model would make them look stupid and irrelevant.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:00 PM on October 9, 2007


bittergirl, you misunderstood me. I'm saying that at the time, Pretty Hate Machine would have failed without the support of the label. Remember, this was back in the days of no internet as we know it.

Same goes for Radiohead. When the internet was in its infancy, they would've died a quick death without the label supporting them.


Your post seems to indicate that the big acts owe something to the labels. Yeah, if it weren't for the labels Radiohead and NIN would almost surely have failed.

But don't forget that the labels weren't promoting Radiohead and NIN out of the kindness of their hearts -- Capitol and TVT (later Interscope for NIN) made an awful lot of money on these 2 bands. How many bands were ditched by Capitol or Interscope because they weren't making enough money for the label? Dozens? Hundreds? And of the 2 that have recently told the labels to go pound sand, I still hear people saying that "they'd be nobodies without the labels." That may well be true, but turnabout is fair play.

And make no mistake about this: Radiohead and NIN owe nothing to the labels. The labels got theirs. With an awful lot more zeroes in their checks than either band ever got themselves.

I'm glad that the marketplace is ripe for some bands to finally do to the labels what the labels have been doing since they started: "You're not making enough money for us. We're proceeding without you."
posted by chimaera at 12:09 PM on October 9, 2007


There was a really good article about this in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago. More and more big names are starting their own label, and enjoying the artistic freedom to do whatever you want that goes with it. In the article Richard Thompson said that while there used to be an advantage to being with a major label as a small act since you would get a few promotional dollars, that's completely gone now as major labels focus on the few major acts that bring in the bulk of the money. He now records an album, then shops it around. He is not under contract with anyone. Natalie Merchant said that with a major label, she'd have to sell 500,000 copies to break even. On her own label she only has to sell 50,000, and doesn't have anyone telling her what to record. The music industry is about manufacturing stars that rake in grillions of dollars for the company. People like Britney Spears or Ashlee Simpson. Really, the major labels have no interest in music anymore. Only dollars.
posted by Eekacat at 12:10 PM on October 9, 2007 [5 favorites]


he totally checked out my ass at a show once. Like, staring.

So at least he has good taste in asses.


This comment is totally useless without pictures. ;)
posted by Eekacat at 12:14 PM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I suggest there is an easy way to tweak the model to make it works for future albums: announce that the album will be auctioned online weekly...

It's going to be interesting seeing different sales models tried in the next few years. The auction idea is interesting; I also like the idea of the ransom model, which would seem to be suited to artists with an established fanbase.
posted by Drastic at 12:17 PM on October 9, 2007


I wonder how many more CDs radiohead would sell if their web site didn't suck so much.
posted by chunking express at 12:37 PM on October 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


In dance music, the model now is for well known DJs and producers to start their own digital labels where they publish themselves and all their friends. The tracks get sold through online distributors like beatport, audiojelly, etc, with no DRM for up to $3 a song. Hardly any of them bother to press vinyl anymore and most of them don't bother with major labels.

They spend 3 weeks working on a single, hand it out to friends for remixes with a 1 month deadline, and then it's in online stores 2 weeks later. Once you get enough songs in the pipeline, you have a steady, constant stream of income, even if none of them are particularly big hits. They never go 'out of stock', there's no costs associated with keeping songs available.

Most of the tracks are pirated to hell and back, but usually at a lower bitrate than you can get from the online store, so a lot of people buy them anyway for the convenience. Playing a 128bps mp3 on a massive club soundsystem doesn't really work.
posted by empath at 12:41 PM on October 9, 2007 [4 favorites]


i find it so disappointing (and Trent mentions this) that the t-shirt has become the end product. not the music: the t-shirt.

This is an interesting point, but in a way, I disagree. I understand even information has a price, but information is so uncontainable that I don't think that it's unreasonable that the artist be compensated for sales of completely physical and uncopyable items, such as elaborate liner notes or t-shirts. If it also pushes arists to diversify their output into other mediums then so be it. If anything, the market is making its decision in light of new technologies.
posted by cellphone at 12:45 PM on October 9, 2007


Perhaps the label will sue him for sounding too much like himself.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:59 PM on October 9, 2007


Wikipedia links to a non-story? C'mon, Metachat is thataway.

"But that remains an unanswered question: without the (rightly loathed) recording industry, how will we all find new, quality music, without having to spend hours and hours sorting through meh music to do so?"

You could pay me a couple bucks and I could recommend between 10 and 20 albums (based on your tastes) that you should buy.

On a larger scale, labels mail me promos and then I write reviews and then I pitch them to editors and then they pay me and you read about them.

But we could get rid of that whole middleman thing, especially if you'll buy me some blank tapes and pay for postage.
posted by klangklangston at 1:18 PM on October 9, 2007


I'm saying that at the time, Pretty Hate Machine would have failed without the support of the label. Remember, this was back in the days of no internet as we know it.

I was there. This is wrong. In fact, even the album's Wikipedia page references the grass-roots support and word-of-mouth that led to this album being a hit.

Released in '89, Pretty Hate Machine went nowhere until word-of-mouth blew it up in '91. And that was a fun album.

Other than that, however, I consider NIN as relevant as the Archies. Year Zero is warmed-over (at best) ARG. And WTF the bits in Rolling Stone. Does an Interscope/NIN/Reznor lapdog work there, or what?

"Megastar recording artist has tiff with label, hires long-in-tooth ARG firm to implement "new media" marketing strategy," resulting publicity contributes to global meh music crisis."

[*yaaawn*]

NIN ARG? What's next? Reality television?

My people have a name for this. We use for like time, long before my time even. They call it....BLLLUUUUUUEEE!
posted by humannaire at 1:51 PM on October 9, 2007


You could pay me a couple bucks and I could recommend between 10 and 20 albums (based on your tastes) that you should buy.

And plenty of people will do it for free; I've got loads of music recommendations here (and from AskMefi) and from other boards I frequent. There are people whose taste I trust so much, even though I've never met them, that I'll check out any of their recommendations.

Add in recommendations from last.fm or Pandora (when I could access it from outside the US) and Metacritic, and I'm drowning in music.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:27 PM on October 9, 2007


Am I the only person who read "Trent Reznor plans to join Radiohead" and thought "God, will THAT be a weird album!"?
posted by nzero at 3:25 PM on October 9, 2007


bittergirl, you misunderstood me. I'm saying that at the time, Pretty Hate Machine would have failed without the support of the label. Remember, this was back in the days of no internet as we know it.

Oh, I don't know about that. The label didn't do a whole lot for them around Pretty Hate Machine-time, it was a case of major word-of-mouth (you know, what we had before the internets).

"So at least he has good taste in asses."
This comment is totally useless without pictures. ;)


Send me $4 through PayPal and I'll think about it. ;)
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:43 PM on October 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


"And plenty of people will do it for free; I've got loads of music recommendations here (and from AskMefi) and from other boards I frequent. There are people whose taste I trust so much, even though I've never met them, that I'll check out any of their recommendations."

Yeah, but they're all habitual squinters and jackanapes. Plus, free music recommendations are totally scattershot, leading you back to that problem of wading through a mile of bullshit.

The only real solution is an entrenched army of critics deploying endless waves of consensus.

Or you could pay me a few dollars. I like that idea too.
posted by klangklangston at 3:45 PM on October 9, 2007


On second re-read, what humannaire said.

The word of mouth started regionally (Reznor and his former bands were pretty well known around here) and spread outward -- I had the album long before it hit the popular consciousness, and Reznor played the hell out of local clubs like the Empire, too.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 3:46 PM on October 9, 2007


And had already developed a rep as something of a complete doucherocket, which is invariably a red flag indicating that a Clevelander is about to become internationally renowned. The lesson being, if you're from Cleveland and want to become a supastah, start pissing off everyone you know RIGHT NOW!!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:45 PM on October 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


(PS: only a good idea if it actually works)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:46 PM on October 9, 2007


/Doesn’t “Trent Reznor” sound like LOLcat speak for something?
posted by Smedleyman at 5:18 PM on October 9, 2007


Is true, my fine Cleveland expat friend Mr. kittens for breakfast, so very true.

We do love to hate on our own...
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:35 PM on October 9, 2007


Indeed we do. Clearly, this is why we can't have nice things.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:58 PM on October 9, 2007


"Selling via a label bands make about $2 per CD"

beagle, GodDAMNit, NO, they DON'T. How many f#$king times does this have to be screamed until people get it?

On paper, most acts get between 10% and 13% of the retail sale price of their CD (which may indeed be around $2). In reality, the record deals are completely rigged so that the artist gets nothing except the "advance" money the label gives them to cover their recording/tour expenses - which gets eaten up paying the band's living expenses, recording, gear, touring, hotels, hookers, blow, kickbacks, etc. etc.

So a band might get handed between $500K and $1 mil every couple of years by the label, but with expenses and management's cut, they're really only making lower-middle-class wages if they're lucky. Most of the time the label is simply stringing them along at a bare subsistence level. A lot of "famous" artists are really pretty broke, but they sure as hell won't admit that to anyone, with their monstrous egos...

The practical reality is that most artists can only make actual real money from what they get paid to perform live and from their cut of the merch sales. That's why your last NIN shirt cost $30; the venue gets a cut, the label gets a cut, the management gets a cut - and the artist winds up with maybe $3 a shirt - which is a crapload more than they get for their CD sales.

Don't ever say the artist makes $2 a CD again. You're completely wrong and talking out your ass.

Frankly, someone offering Radiohead 2 cents plus a $1 fee means Radiohead is making serious bank on their sales compared to previously - assuming a decent portion of their loyal fan base all downloads the music, and why wouldn't they, for $1.02?

I'm sure they won't make any less money from touring than they do now, so this just means Radiohead is about to see a rather nice windfall, IMO. Of course, time wil tell.

Good for Trent. I'll throw him $4 for a hi-res download, no problem.

I'm skipping a little happydance over here for the death of "The Biz."

"I'm all for ditching the labels, but they do provide valuable exposure for bands who are just starting out. I know who Britney Spears is, after all, but I can't name one band fighting for room on a myspace page."

schlaager: Your second sentence indicates that you are not the target market, and are thus (I hate to break it to you, and I say this without rancor or antipathy) irrelevant to the new way of doing the music business.

Plus, there are already a number of small independent marketing firms that can provide much of what the labels provided in terms of publicity, and who will not demand utter draconian dominatory ownership of every bit of an artist's creativity - more like a 10% cut of net. My old music biz manager, who was actually a label exec for a while, is doing precisely this over in Europe now, and he's making a mint, far more than he ever did in the "traditional" music biz.

The times, they are a-changin'. About goddamn time.
posted by zoogleplex at 6:25 PM on October 9, 2007 [2 favorites]


The Radiohead site -- in addition to generally sucking -- is also slow and unresponsive.

Still, this is an awesome idea.
posted by chunking express at 6:50 AM on October 10, 2007


I bet myself a sushi dinner tonight that there would be at least one MeFi post (even deleted) about Radiohead today. Unagi, here I come!
posted by the_bone at 5:00 PM on October 10, 2007


Hey, God! Less Radiohead, please! More James Brown!
posted by humannaire at 7:39 PM on October 10, 2007


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