Reznor Urges Musicians To Ditch Labels

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Rocker Trent Reznor is urging all musicians to follow in his footsteps and ditch their record labels.
Reznor's band Nine Inch Nails broke away from their deal with Universal in 2007, after a tempestuous relationship with the music giant.
The singer describes the experience as "liberating" - insisting big labels make too much money from musicians and are completely out of touch with the industry.
Reznor says, "Anyone who's an executive at a record label does not understand what the internet is, how it works, how people use it, how fans and consumers interact - no idea. I'm surprised they know how to use email. They have built a business around selling plastic discs, and nobody wants plastic discs any more. They're in such a state of denial it's impossible for them to understand what's happening.
"One of the biggest wake-up calls of my career was when I saw a record contract. I said, 'Wait - you sell it for $18.98 and I make 80 cents? And I have to pay you back the money you lent me to make it and then you own it? Who the f**k made that rule? Oh! The record labels made it because artists are dumb and they'll sign anything' - like I did. When we found out we'd been released (from their recording contract) it was like, 'Thank God!'. But 20 minutes later it was, 'Uh-oh, now what are we going to do?' It was incredibly liberating, and it was terrifying."
And Reznor adds that musicians should be exploring other ways to sell their own music, rather than relying on labels: "As an artist, you are now the marketer."


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Comments

Anton's picture

Anton

Screw Record Labels!! Our band is aggressive with guerrilla marketing and promoting. We just made a couple thousand stickers for cheap at stickerjunkie and slapped them everywhere. We put our myspace page and website address on the stickers so people can check out our tunes. These days its more cost effective to do things like that and create a buzz about yourself. If your music is good, you will be successful.
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69punk's picture

69punk

Some of the reaction by the musicians is understood, however Trent has the funding to support his own marketing campaign. Small independents do not. Stickers will only go so far. You need a strong street team, and from what I have personally seen, you are definitely as strong as your weakest link. Don't hate on record labels for everything. Getting tour support and advertising in the right channels by small dorm room sized labels is non-existent. I agree with Trent that the model needs tweakin', but what acts is he supporting? I think the best way for young artists to make it big these days is to have a strong veteran act to either cover a song or produce that independent band's record. Then let the internet news channels cover this effort. If you haven't heard of The Gaslight Anthem, you will hear everything you want to know about them in the next six months. I'll let you figure out what veteran is supporting them.
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indeciSEAN's picture

indeciSEAN

69punk's got a point, anton. while that's great that you're able to cheaply and independently produce marketing materials (i.e. stickers and even your own cd's nowadays) you have to take a lot of things into account with that mindset. one thing - a major thing - is that every other band is thinking along those same lines, right now. i don't tend to take notice of stickers because they're EVERYWHERE, and EVERYONE is doing it. i don't tend to check out myspaces as much because now every local upstart has one and is using a bot to try and get fans...it's true, a lot of bands are going to be successful as long as their music is good, but i can name quadruple the amount who won't get any buzz. the three of us could easily name hundreds of artists that aren't as successful or recognized as they should be...hell, how many people do you know who can make a living off their music? that, the most simplistic form of "success" in the entertainment industry, and it's a lot harder to come by than people think. while labels aren't always the answer, blindly railing against them and trying to do everything on your own isn't necessarily going to bring you any success, either.
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Calderon0311's picture

Calderon0311

I'm deep into the political technology scene and there are two stories that usually appear at least once a week.1. Trent Reznor does something for the fan and makes money from it.2. The Music Labels sues fans, other labels, and artists and makes money from it.The old-world labels say that they are working for the artist, but the truth is just as Reznor puts it. The cost per CD is less then a penny, but the middle men (who are usually the contract makers and the labels) make 90% of the sale. People that don't even show up on the credits rake in the most money, and the rest is left to the artist. (Which goes back to the labels for all the "marketing".)The problem here is two fold. The CD market is brimming with plastic discs that are nothing more then trophies for a single or a few good tracks. The other issue is that the labels are not acknowledging the changes in technology and the culture of music. The innovators like Reznor understand that the music is not a product anymore. You can't "sell" music anymore then you can sell air, sound, and emotions. Rather, in our my-facebook-space twitter world, we share music to express our feelings, to make better/stonger connections with others, and to define ourselves and our days. The purpose of music have not changed, but the distribution to the audience has. What used to be a mix-tape and mix-cd is now our playlist. But how can artist make money from giving this away for free? They can't.What can they offer though that we would want? It's much much easier then just t-shirts, but it's all the same.We consume and replace music, but you cannot replace an experience. The sound of a MP3 is not the same as being in a actual concert, or having a piece of memorabilia. When I buy a CD, I'm buying a copy from an original master that I can access. It signifies that I "Own" the contents of the CD because it connected to me much like how I own a necklace or clothing that represent my expression.How much are we willing to pay though for such an offer? To me a CD is only worth 5$ at most. I've paid though 30$ for 3 when I got the meet the artist in person, and 100$+ for a boxset of a Live Recordings that includes much more then just the music. All of which, each artist got more out of one sale then they would out of 10,000 sales though a label. I just wish more artist will be like Reznor and understand that it's not the music that fans by, but their connection to you they are willing to pay top-dollar for.
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stevencravis's picture

stevencravis

Yes, I agree with Trent. Though I've never made it into the major label world as an artist myself, I'm doing remarkably well communicating directly with my fans of www.StevenCravis.com for example everyone who signs up for my confidential email list immediately gets 12 free legal high quality music downloads.
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copyright is still too cumbers's picture

copyright is st...

I applaud Trent's efforts, but the fact remains that copyright law has been unfairly manipulated by the whole industry for decades. In some countries it is possible for a label to maintain copyright on a work for more than 100 years!Copyright was originally intended to protect artists from the publishers (aka labels) who, in the past, would distribute works for profit without paying a penny to the creators. It took government intervention, in the form of copyright, to make them pay up. However, in modern times, the artists have signed away their own protection and handed it over to the labels who have turned it into a massive cudgel to wield against consumer and artist alike. In other words, the artists are entirely to blame for giving up their own protection to the very same publishers it was meant to protect them from.The bottom line is, until I see artists waking up to the fact that copyright is so corrupt in this modern day, there is no way I'll ever buy copyright encumbered music again. There are many excellent artists releasing under the Creative Commons or other sharealike licenses (often called Indie artists) that are putting much more on the line than NIN.Copyright is no longer what it was meant to be, and must either be returned to it's original purpose or abolished entirely.
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Deathtoreachastar's picture

Deathtoreachastar

Thank God we have someone like Trent at the cutting edge. As a musician I appreciate his past experiences and hope to learn from his lessons and succeed.
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JJinBrooklyn's picture

JJinBrooklyn

It's always the established, pre-internet artists like Reznor who are saying "ditch the labels". But he, and Radiohead, et al. all used the labels money and power to get recognized above the din of those unsigned masses who are now selling used cars or whatever.When Trent proclaims "ditch the labels", he gets press coverage all over, and everyone knows he has a new album to purchase, a tour coming up and more. But the rest of us, competing for eyes and ears in the media saturated world, what are we to do? How do we cut through and actually get heard beyond our town/neighborhood/or even here in Brooklyn without the clout and experience of a label?No one has figured that out yet.
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raffraffraff's picture

raffraffraff

I fail to see what the music industry really does for artists or consumers. Example: I just tried to buy the 'Cold War Kids' album online. I live in Ireland, so I can't buy from Napster or Amazon. I use Linux so iTunes is not an option - and anyway, installing bloatware so I can download an album is ridiculous.Comparison: I google a few well-chosen words and clicked three times - the album can be mind for free.Alternative: Go into the city and buy the CD. Extra (environmental & financial) cost of packaging, transportation, store markup... but: "Oh, sorry, we don't have that in stock".So tell me, what did the music industry do for the 'Cold War Kids'? Nothing. Last FM introduced me to their music. YouTube showed me their latest video. If the band had a sell-direct website and a PayPal account, I could have paid them directly, and they'd make some money. Actually, not just 'some' money, but almost the whole amount that I paid.As it is, they get nothing until I find a record store that stocks their CD, and even then, they just get a tiny cut. Fair? I think not.
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MD_Fisher's picture

MD_Fisher

If it weren't for the internet's audio samples and video clips I never would have found some of my favourite artists and subsequently gone to see them play live, bought t-shirts at those shows and purchased vinyl, CD copies or MP3s of their songs/albums. All I am wondering is where's the music video store? These devices we have can play video, some can even play video via a TV out (A/V out port).
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