Trent Reznor's Future Plans On Album Distribution
I was in high school when Nine Inch Nails released The Downward Spiral. Many of my friends were obsessed with March of the Pigs, Closer, and Hurt. It wasn't until college that I developed my own taste for Nine Inch Nails. I remember reading an article in Rolling Stone where Trent described spending weeks recreating the melody of a song as a full marching band in Pro Tools. I knew then that The Fragile was the kind of meaty album I could sink my teeth into. Indeed, after too many listens to count it lead me to the rest of his catalog and to the CD store on release day for With Teeth and Year Zero.
Who could forget the innovative marketing plan that accompanied Year Zero involving songs leaked via USB keychains at Nine Inch Nails concerts (and the subsequent attempt by the RIAA to sue sites that posted the songs online). In May 2007 Trent found his CD selling for more in Australia than other new CD releases and was told by a label rep "Basically it's because we know you've got a core audience that's gonna buy whatever we put out, so we can charge more for that. It's the pop stuff we have to discount to get people to buy it. True fans will pay whatever."
Reznor later wrote on nin.com "The ABSURD retail pricing of Year Zero in Australia. Shame on you, UMG [Universal Music Group]. Year Zero is selling for $34.99 Australian dollars ($29.10 US). No wonder people steal music. Avril Lavigne's record in the same store was $21.99 ($18.21 US)."
At a tour stop at the Sydney Hordern Pavilion in Sydney, Australia on September 16, 2007 Trent asked the audience if the price of Year Zero had come down. On hearing that it had not he responded "then STEAL it!".
On October 8, 2007 Trent announced on nin.com that "as of right now nine inch nails is a totally free agent, free of any recording contract with any label. I have been under recording contracts for 18 years and have watched the business radically mutate from one thing to something inherently very different and it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as i see fit and appropriate."
And what a vision Trent has. On October 10, 2007 Trent posted details on the availability of his first post-label release, a mix CD called Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D.
The album will be available in three different formats. It will be available as a digital download on iTunes, Amazon.com's MP3 store, and possibly others with "regular" pricing. It will be available as a 3-disc vinyl set with a six-panel gatefold vinyl jacket with insert. It will also be available as a physical CD/DVD Rom. The exciting part of this release is that the DVD Rom contains every track from Year Zero in multitrack format to, in Trent's words "do with what you please". The songs will be pre-formatted for Apple's GarageBand, both the full and demo versions of Ableton Live (Mac or PC) and will also be included as generic WAV files at 16 bit 44k for use in all audio editors.
Trent then went on to say:
In short, it will be available online for free and for pay, in vinyl, and in stores on a CD/DVD Rom. In an age where the Radiohead release In Rainbows can be both claimed as an unparalled success for alternative distribution methods with more than 1.2 million albums sold and raking in $10 million for the band a failure that puts future distribution innovation in doubt with an additional 500,000 albums downloaded from torrent sites, Trent Reznor looks to offer the full range of options from "legal" to "illegal" means - or in this case "pay" and "free" since he acknowledges and seems to be okay with downloading his music at no cost from torrent sites.
Beyond the wide range of distribution methods Trent is also releasing the multitrack files from Year Zero. It will be interesting to see how the sounds and songs are remixed, reinterpreted, and reused in new creative works.
It will be artists like Trent Reznor, Radiohead, and Madonna who lead the artist's charge for change in the music industry. The release of Y34RZ3R0R3MIX3D will be another watershed moment for the future of music distribution. And I'll be there on November 20th eager to snap up the CD/DVD Rom just in time for Thanksgiving.