Trent Reznor discusses his upcoming projects and the state of the music industry today.
The interview turns juicy when Trent discusses his perception of the music industry today and his thoughts on file sharing as it evolved into his stance today.
“Well [pauses], that time would’ve been about two thousand…eight-ish, somewhere in that neighborhood, and, the true reality of that situation was: the record deal that we had signed years and years before had escalating advances based on the current state of the industry when that was negotiated. 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.”
Now, at that time in my life, it felt very much like, “OK. The record business is broken. The model is broken.” 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.
So, between putting out Saul Williams’ record and experimenting with the pay-what-you-want kind of model, which led to pretty eye opening and kind of sad results, in my opinion, to rethinking how one makes money. If I’m gonna go on tour, and here’s a concert ticket, I’m hoping you come see, you know what? I’’’ throw the record in with that, it’ll all come into the same pot.
Rethinking different ways to get your message out to people, and also trying to be consumer friendly. What do people want? They want stuff that’s not copy protected. OK. They want to be able to share it with their friends? OK. They’d like higher quality digital files? OK. They’d like to feel like they’re getting some sort of value for their money? I understand that. OK.
How do we make that all make sense? You know I’ve spent a lot – more time that I would like to spend in the last few years – trying to figure that out.
And, where I’m at right now is realizing that it’s a tough road, and I think that we are in between business models. It felt clear to me that labels didn’t know what they were doing back then. But I’ll say, on the other hand: doing everything yourself? When we went independent, we went independent-independent. We didn’t go, “Let’s go with an indie label,” which has the same business model, but can brag about being an independent rather than a major label, as if that means anything.
We went direct from us. That’s it. There is no label. The label‘s me and my manager, as loud as I can shout on twitter or anywhere else. And you realize the shortcomings of that, that you’re only as loud as people that want to listen to you. It is helpful to have people supporting what you do, and getting the word out, and, y’know, I don’t know what the cool record shop is in Prague.
And therefore my record isn’t in that store in Prague because I didn’t know about it. I care about Prague, but I don’t care enough to go to Prague to ask somebody what record shop, and then strike a deal with, you know what I mean. It’s beyond the scope of what I want to personally do.
So, there’s another long answer saying: I don’t know. I’m not disenchanted by things. I think in a lot of ways it’s the wild west right now, and it’s wildly exciting, and it’s interesting when something’s been disrupted this greatly, the record business. There’s limitless potential, but it also requires a lot of effort. I have to do a lot of things now that I didn’t have to do back in the day…”
The full interview can be found over at Tunecore. I highly suggest reading the full piece!