Trent Reznor Talks About Making Music For Free

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I found this interview with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails interesting because it’s apparent that he became the ambassador for “free music” not because he believes in it but rather because he believes it’s not going away. Here are the relevant parts:

Mr. Reznor has no global solution for how to sustain a long-term career as a recording musician, much less start one, when listeners take free digital music for granted. “It’s all out there,” he added. “I don’t agree that it should be free, but it is free, and you can either accept it or you can put your head in the sand.”

He knows what he doesn’t want to do: make his music a marketing accessory. “Now just making good music, or great music, isn’t enough,” Mr. Reznor said. “Now I have to sell T-shirts, or I have to choose which whorish association is the least stinky. I don’t really want to be on the side of a bus or in a BlackBerry ad hawking some product that sucks just so I can get my record out. I want to maintain some dignity and self-respect in the process, if that’s possible these days.”

Last year Mr. Reznor produced and bankrolled an album for the socially conscious hip-hop poet Saul Williams, “The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust.” When record labels didn’t want it, Mr. Reznor put it online: free to the first 100,000 downloaders as good-quality MP3 files or $5 for more high-fidelity files. He had thought that fans would willingly pay the price of a latte to support musicians directly. But fewer than 20 percent did so. “I think I was just naïve.”

At the time he called the project a failure, but he has reconsidered. “The numbers of the people that paid for that record, versus the people that paid for his last record, were greater,” he said. “He made infinitely more money from that record than he did from his other one. It increased his name value probably tenfold. At the end of the day, counting free downloads, it was probably five or six or seven times higher than the amount sold on his last record. I don’t know how you could look at that as a failure.”

Read the whole story (here).

There Are 1 Comment On This Article.

  1. That’s the game that we in content generation play these days.

    How do we continue to support ourselves?

    There seems to be, on the part of the consumer, an expectation that information (photos, text, video and audio) be delivered as a ‘free’ commodity.

    Like it or not, I have a strong feeling that such sentiment will not just go away.

    One benefit from the eventual (near, if not complete) collapse of the paid-for music industry will be that artists are free from their labels, to do, play and be what they want.

    Sure, they might sell fewer albums overall, but keep a higher percentage of the revenues. And they can sell t-shirts and tickets.

    I have not a doubt in my mind that we will, in my lifetime, see most newspapers and magazines delivered to us online and in print in exchange only for our marketing demographics. And each one will have ads specific to the reader enclosed.

    But in the meantime, for the photographers, writers, designers, editors (less so) and other commercial artists, we’ll have to do what we can to just hang on and make it through.

    Now is a time for us to experiment in the market and get our work out there in different ways.

    Let’s just hope that there is, in fact, a light at the end of the tunnel.