Trent Reznor to record label: Fuck you!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 9, 2007, 1:45 PM | comments: 5

Nine Inch Nails no longer has a record label. I think that's a pretty sweet arrangement. Once you're really popular, do you really need the record companies in the digital age? Surely you don't.

Radiohead is doing the same thing, and they're actually selling their album starting tomorrow online for whatever price you see fit. It's a very interesting experiment. I look forward to seeing what happens.



October 9, 2007, 6:16 PM #

Didn't Garth Brooks do something a little while ago where he bypassed his record label and contracted directly with Wal-Mart for the distribution of his music? I think it could only be purchased in Wal-Mart stores. I didn't agree with that for many, many reasons.


October 9, 2007, 6:52 PM #

The key is the third line of your entry:

"Once you're really popular..."

Artists still need the labels to get there. With the internet age, labels can become a stepping stone, not the destination.

Has there been a music artist that's broke big solely on the net? If not, once someone does that - the game has changed.

The only thing that bugs me is the way music seems to have been devalued with the rise of the internet and more importantly file trading. People really seem to think music has little value.

I'm not entirely sure it was overpriced before.

The nice thing about what NIN and Radiohead are doing is that it's essentially a decent compromise. They can give the music to the people for less and without the middleman they still get reasonable pay for their work.

The other thing I find interesting is that both those groups have the kind of fanbase that probably doesn't work well within the record label/music industry business model. These days, I'd bet there was a lot of pressure to sell more than they were, but outside of the confines of the business models (taking the grassroots internet approach) they'll do fine.

The world is changing.


October 9, 2007, 7:03 PM #

Garth did only sell at Wal*Mart but I don't think he bypassed his label.


October 9, 2007, 7:54 PM #

Your definition of success though is confusing success with popularity. When you change the distribution model and the allocation of revenue, success is something completely different.

Self-publishing a book is a good example of this. If I did my own book over again, it would have cost around $9 a unit to manufacture on If I sold it for $30, that means I'd have to sell 190 copies to make the $4,000 I got as an advance.

In contrast, my book has to sell more than 8,000 copies before I ever see another dime beyond the advance. I honestly think that I could have sold that 190 and then some, not to mention retain the copyright.

My first point is that the success comes in a different way in this respect.

My second point, which I didn't previously make, was that the labels are part of a taste-making system that includes radio and MTV. "Big" artists are like "big" movies. For every big hit, there are dozens that are not. It's like a blind squirrel kind of thing. The idea that there could be smaller, more niche interests for people is where I see the business going.


October 9, 2007, 8:23 PM #

No, I get it. That's kind of what I meant with my last paragraph.

The way the labels do business - you have to be popular to be successful.

Both have small, but very loyal fanbases. Not enough to keep the labels off their asses about sales numbers, but plenty to go off and do this sort of thing on their own and do fine with the middleman eliminated.

Pretty much exactly what you describe with your book.

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