Nine Inch Nails band member Trent Reznor posted his new album, “Ghosts I-IV,” on NIN.com last week in an attempt to screw over major record labels. The album can be downloaded off the Web site for only $5, a steal considering it has 36 tracks. Moreover, for those who aren’t the biggest Nine Inch Nails fans, the album’s first nine tracks can be downloaded for free on the Web site.
The two-disc CD, which can be shipped anywhere for $10, will be available in retail stores April 8.
Nine Inch Nails fans everywhere are ecstatic. So is lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Trent Reznor, who is already making a pretty penny. His $300 ultra-deluxe, limited-edition package sold out on the first day – and all of the revenue will go directly into Reznor’s pocket, not to the record label.
Ironically, on Nine Inch Nails’ last CD, 2005’s “With Teeth,” Reznor sings on track four, “Would you bite the hand that feeds you?” Some may say that is exactly what Nine Inch Nails is doing.
Apparently, Reznor is mad at his record label because he feels they are taking advantage of fans by charging too much money for his CDs.
During a 2007 interview in Australia, Reznor commented on the outrageous prices of CDs there. During a concert he told fans: “Has anyone seen the price come down? OK, well, you know what that means . steal it. Steal away. Steal and steal and steal some more and give it to all your friends and keep on stealin,’ because one way or another, these motherfuckers will get it through their head that they’re ripping people off, and that’s not right.”
Reznor’s idea is not exactly new, though. Some may remember when Radiohead first pioneered the idea of cutting out the record label by going digital in 2007. The popular British band released its seventh album, “In Rainbows,” as a digital download for which fans named their own price. In a bold move, Radiohead decided to trust its fans to pay a fair price for the 10-track album.
Explaining the reasons behind the album’s delivery and pricing scheme, Radiohead’s lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood said, “It was an experiment that felt worth trying. . It’s fun to make people stop for a few seconds and think about what music is worth.”
At the time, Radiohead was no longer under a record contract, enabling the band to experiment. Lead singer Thom Yorke said in Time magazine: “I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say ‘fuck you’ to this decaying business model.”
It was reported that 1.2 million digital downloads were sold by the “In Rainbows” release date. According to Yorke, the band’s profits from the digital download of “In Rainbows” were larger than digital downloads of all the band’s other studio albums combined.
Digital downloading isn’t the only thing Reznor is experimenting with for this album. The entire album is a kind of experiment.
On the Nine Inch Nails Web site, Trent Reznor explained: “This music arrived unexpectedly as the result of an experiment. The rules were as follows: 10 weeks, no clear agenda, no over-thinking, everything driven by impulse. Whatever happens during that time gets released as … something. We began improvising and let the music decide the direction. Eyes were closed, hands played instruments and it began. Within a matter of days it became clear we were on to something, and a lot of material began appearing. . The end result is a wildly varied body of music that we’re able to present to the world in ways the confines of a major record label would never have allowed.”
If Reznor’s venture works, he could very well make a lot of money – much more money than he could ever make working for a record label. Conventional recording contracts pay artists so little after the usual expenses associated with a record deal, only best-selling artists can make a profit from CD sales. For years, artists have depended on touring and merchandise sales to make money.
With the online success of Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead, other bands may follow suit in the near future. The demise of record labels will result in cheaper prices for fans, more profit for artists and drastic changes to the music industry as we know it.