back to article Freetard-idol rock star Trent Reznor gives up, signs to major label

When Nine Inch Nails rock star Trent Reznor decided to go into DIY music publishing in 2008, he became a freetard poster child overnight. For the project, Reznor bypassed The Man to release a long instrumental album under the NIN banner in a variety of formats: some tracks were given away for free, $5 bought you a compressed …

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WTF?

i dont get it

I dont see the link between releasing your music Independantly and software piracy.

Are people all like "well he hasnt got sony muscle so we can steal with impunity - F**K him" ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: i dont get it

Indeed, there is no link - in fact, perhaps that's part of the problem. People often argue that the reasons they pirate stuff are not because they're greedy, selfish, short-sighted etc., but that the music was too expensive, or DRM'd, or not in the right format, or of poor audio quality, or part of a corrupt industry, or not available in their country, and so on. So Reznor put out a record independently, charged just $5, no DRM, etc - in short, he did everything right. But as he says in this interview - http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-9847788-1.html - he was disappointed to learn that the vast majority of people still chose to download it for free. For all the rhetoric on sites like Techdirt, being independent and giving consumers what they asked for did not cause them to treat him any fairer than they would a major label artist - and in going the DIY route he also lost out on the advantages of being on a major label, like getting a non-refundable cash advance, radio promotion and marketing, tour support, and so on. All artists, large and small, suffer from piracy; and so, the argument might go, If you're going to get pirated anyway, better just to take the major label cash advance while you can, no?

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Bronze badge

Suggestion

The Register's style book should ban the word "freetard", not to avoid offending the easily offended, but to limit editorializing in (what I take to be) news stories. Leave that and "fanboi" to the commentariat, which will surely keep them current.

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Bronze badge

Re: Suggestion

We already went through this with the word 'commentard':

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/02/23/commentard_or_commenter_poll/

Us commentards won. I imagine 'freetard' would come under the same ruling.

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Re: Suggestion

I think The Register's style book should ban the phrase "all like" when used in place of "saying" or "thinking".

Language of Shakespeare and all that, withal.

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Re: Suggestion

Always to tough to argue with those that think it's funny/cool to be called dumb.

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Anonymous Coward

Trent Reznor. Absolute fucking legend,.

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MK

Legend

Indeed. And then he sobered up and got married. Now, decent NiN is exactly that, a legend.

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Errr....

"One frequently overlooked aspect of the major label model is that successful artists subsidise the less successful"

I think that should read:

"One frequently overlooked aspect of the major label model is that successful artists subsidise the board and major investors"

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Yes, of course

Because God forfend that people who put up money to start and maintain a business, and who are responsible for its behavior, should ever see so much as a single thin dime of profit out of their investment.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Aaron Em

But does that not require them to pay their staff? People have no qualms about them earning a wage, but they do if they then turn around and sack the band minus wages owing.

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Re: Yes, of course

God forbid you think "record" companies are anything other than fucking vampire parasites - bleeding artists and consumers alike dry. Added value my arse.

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WTF?

Former Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven front man?

As far as I know both bands are still in existence and David Lowery still fronts them both.

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WTF?

Lost me there....

freetard poster child..."some tracks were given away for free, $5 bought you a compressed digital version, while vinyl options ranged from $10 to $300."

Since when has $5 - $300 been free?

In summary this entire slap-dash article was, one man/band decided not to resign to a label and go it alone, it didn't work out, so have gone back to a label.

As for the last bit... huge artist on little label, distributed by mega corp done good.

You mean like JM Jarre and Depeche Mode decades ago? A huge amount of indie labels use majors to distribute through, it's nothing new.

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Facepalm

Re: Lost me there....

Let me guide you -

"some tracks were given away free" - um, some tracks you could get for free, but not all of them.

"$5 bought you a compressed digital version" - the entire album could be purchased as a digital copy for $5

"vinyl options ranged from $10-$300" - depending on how much disposable money you have buy a black copy, or a white copy or maybe one comes in a case and one doesn't.

In summary -

You missed the free content when you mistakenly ignored it, or possibly willfully ignored it, I don't know. That was a bit slap dash of you. It's okay though, because you're not paid to write comments, or read them properly.

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Re: Lost me there....

He also told fans to pirate a NIN album as the record label were charging considerably more then the commercvial dross they put out, when challenged they replied that "your fans will pay extra but <cmmercial dross> has to be sold cheaply"

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Happy

Re: Lost me there....

"Since when has $5 - $300 been free?"

That'll be the "some tracks", the first 9 off the album iirc.

The $300 versions mostly went to eBay scalpers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lost me there....

Well in that case have wander over to Amazon, looks like a lot of freetard champions there then...it's happened for a long time, bands put out tracks and remixes for free to promote said album, it's not new.

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Anonymous Coward

Sources

If I may ask, did Mr. Orlowski actually interview Mr. Reznor, or anyone else for that matter, or has he created an article consisting of a carefully chosen selection of soundbites?

I'm all for a reasoned opinion for or against any subject, but I would like to have a clear picture of where the underlying data is coming from.

Thank you.

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Re: Sources

If it was an interview it'd be labelled as such. Orlowski is known for cherry picking sometimes to support his viewpoints but this article seems to be fairly accurate judging by what has been published elsewhere.

Whether you agree with his opinions of the big labels being altruistic socialist organisations is up to you. The fact that big bands are used to subsidise new talent isn't untrue but I suspect it has more do to with sound business practices than the desire to create the atmosphere of a bohemian artists' commune within the company.

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Re: Sources

" The fact that big bands are used to subsidise new talent isn't untrue"

No... that is factually completely FALSE.

Labels make PROFIT.

And Labels have found a way to reduce their risk by completely dumping it on the Artists.

In ANY other normal business model, a company finds a good product, invests THEIR money in the product. Invest THEIR OWN money into R&D, production, promotion etc etc until the product goes to market. Then they hope the product sells so that they can make profits.

In the recording industry... Artists are the product. But the labels LOAN money to the Artists so that the ARTISTS have to support ALL the risk... As SOON as an artist sells ONE album, the company is making profits.

And since the share of the profits that the company keeps si SOOOO much bigger that what the artists get, the company will have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit... before the artist has been able to pay off that loan...

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Facepalm

Maybe Reznor's last album would have done better in its free/digital format, had it not been such wafty shite, void of any real NIN-ness.

And his How To Destroy Angels project smacks of "Hey wifey, come and sing with me" vanity publishing.

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WTF?

Of course it was devoid of any "real NiN-ness"!

It wasn't SUPPOSED to be Nine Inch Nails, for f*ck's sake!

Reznor specifically branded it as an album from his new project, "How To Destroy Angels", NOT as a "Nine Inch Nails" release.

Does Reznor not have the right to put out different music? Or is he doomed to forever stay stuck in that scratched old groove, playing the same stuff for the rest of his life?

Musicians who play a lot of live performances are people, not machines. They like a bit of variety. After a while, even your most popular track becomes a bloody chore to play. The fans only hear you play it live a couple of times a year, but YOU have to play it every sodding day.

It's the main reason bands that do a lot of touring keep mucking about with their repertoire, tweaking a little hear, adding a longer solo there, and so on.

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Boffin

Re: Of course it was devoid of any "real NiN-ness"!

"It wasn't SUPPOSED to be Nine Inch Nails, for f*ck's sake!"

You might want to relax more, if discussion about music leads you to shout and swear at strangers.

'Ghosts' most certainly was an NIN album. It says 'NIN' on the front. Sadly, it was pretty rubbish.

NIN never toured *that* heavily date-wise, so claiming that they got sick of playing something every day is a bit of a reach.

I understand that bands get bored with playing certain tracks, but it's the fans that pay their wages and who generally come to expect a certain sound. I get pretty bored of my job, but I don't think that I could get away with doing something totally different and my boss still deciding to pay me.

Musicians who wish to change their format need to do so in a progressive manner so as not to alienate their fans, or re-brand themselves. Stepping not-too-far from NIN, Numan's live reinterpretations of his classics are an excellent example of moving your music on in line with current artistic desires without driving away your audience.

"Reznor specifically branded it as an album from his new project, "How To Destroy Angels", NOT as a "Nine Inch Nails" release."

Well; duh! That's what artists who want to do completely different stuff do. Just look at the work Andy LaPlegua does, under at least five different band names, so that fans know what they're getting into.

Shame Reznor didn't brand Ghosts under a different name, instead of trading on a name that it really had no relation to.

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Go

Successful artists subsidise the less successful

Almost. Successful artists subsidise the cocaine and hookers.

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Re: Successful artists subsidise the less successful

Shouldn't that be: "Some projects make profits for the company, Other don't recoup investment. If the company is any good it does ok overall. Same as every other business in world."

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Alien

Re: Successful artists subsidise the less successful

Yes. My local plumber does much the same thing. He buys all sorts of different toilets that customers might want. Some sell lots, some sell a few and some sell none. However, like pop singers, they are all bought and paid for and can sit in the corner of the shed until perhaps one day someone wants to buy one. In the meantime the storage costs him little to nothing and it registers as an asset to his company.

Why such an elementary business practice should be mysteriously elevated to the status of a divine Robin Hood Socialism when carried out by Record Labels, only Orlowski and his '40% of the gross' pal seem able to understand. The rest of us peasants can only gape in awe. Such an extraordinary grasp of the mystical complexities of the Universe is a gift indeed.

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Meh

Re: Successful artists subsidise the less successful

Shouldn't that be: "Some projects make profits for the company

Why ask me? The subject line from my original comment was a line (no pun intended) from the article.

The history of the music biz is littered with stories of bad record deals, worse managers, dodgy showbiz lawyers and naïve artists. The music business is not a charity and will squeeze every last penny from clueless new signings. I have a couple of acquaintances that have been pretty successful musicians in their time and I've heard the same story from them. They made more money from gigs, merch and cover version royalties than they ever made from their record deals. I would add that this was in the 80s and 90s so well before file sharing existed.

As for Trent Reznor, his lower than expected sales as an independent could be due to his music not being as good as his earlier output. I don't know about you or anyone else but I never buy substandard albums just because I liked what the artist did previously.

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quote: 'So long as your act didn't recoup its advance, you could enjoy a career for years with the best-sellers effectively subsidising you.'

Yeah, right.

The mayor labels are known to stick to artists that don't sell many records and give them the money for a second and third album... Just like FOX is known to give potentially great TV shows the time to build a style and a fan base over 2 or 3 seasons.

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yes, that used to happen a hell of a lot

Much less so now, because there is less money about, but for sure. You see, apart from money what a record company exec really wants is status among his peers, and you can get that status by having critically acclaimed acts that don't actually sell, and from acts that sell damn all for years before they finally hit the money - making you look far sighted, and indeed acts that keep looking like they might be the next big thing but never actually make it.

Read, for instance, "White Bicycles" by Joe Boyd to learn something about the way this used to happen.

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@Pysx

"And his How To Destroy Angels project smacks of "Hey wifey, come and sing with me" vanity publishing."

I prefer "hey wifey put down that poor vegetable and come and bang this tambourine"

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Mushroom

speaking as a "freetard" (spit)...

...I have never, ever believed that musicians should give away their work for free. I have, however, always believed that record companies should stop robbing musicians and bullying music fans while profferring bland garbage from American Idol winners.

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Re: speaking as a "freetard" (spit)...

Indeed. I am more than happy to pay for music. I consider stealing a copy to be wrong. However I used to buy a CD from a store for £11.99. Now to get the same music in a digital format I have to pay £11.99. The record doesn't have to pay for production (the CD, not audio), warehousing, distribution, store space, all the staff. And they prevent me from fromat shifting and selling on an unwanted copy. That, Mr Orlowski, doesn't make me a freetard, but does explain why a lot of people resent (absolutely fucking hate) the record companies. And why some of them take the matter into their own hands. If the companies could drag their failing business model out of the fucking middle ages and their heads out of their arses, and charge a fair price for music then a lot more people would be willing to pay. A lot of money used to go to the people between the artist and the listener, because those people added value as described above. Now the companies just want all that money and do fuck all with it apart from stick it up their nose.

Or perhaps I'm completely wrong. In which case could you do an article educating me please on what value the companies add?

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IT Angle

As someone who does it as a hobby....

Being pretty well un-known, zero promotion budget and near zero quality, I give pretty well all my music away for free (but if you like it you can buy it) & earn about $5 - $10 a month. Leveraging big promotion is the key, & having worked in the industry before everything online digital, the same is still true today, sign with a label that can plug your record and it will be more likely to sell.

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Anonymous Coward

NIggy Tardust...

... was utter shit. Did anyone actually pay money for it?

Maybe if Trent wants money for his musical efforts, he should stop releasing crap albums? :p

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Labels do provide a service. Ther only people that think they don't are stupid children that don't understand how the world works or people that use it as their excuse to steal music.

I think trent learned a valuable lesson which is don't listen to your fans if they're justifying their theft.

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Anonymous Coward

@toadwarrior

"Labels do provide a service."

May I ask if you are involved in the music industry, and in what capacity, please?

"Labels" as you call them (producers? distributors?) may provide a service, but to whom and at what price?

I was introduced to music copying in the absence of copyright holder assent by a friend of mine who happens to be a fairly successful professional musician. He gave me a ripped copy of *his own* album--furthermore, he strictly forbade me to buy it from any store, as he considered the prices to be obscene (about $15 apiece, of which the whole band got about $0.20, and the markup was something absolutely stupid, in the order of 200% IIRC). On the other hand, wider distribution of his works, by whatever means, meant more concerts, out of which they got a much more fair cut.

Nowadays, if I want to support an artist, I copy their music far and wide, play it in public, seed it, ...and attend their concerts. That's the lesson a career musician taught me :)

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Silver badge

Whilst I agree with you that labels do provide a valuable service, you're not going to get a warm response to such comment on the reg. If you were just trolling I'd recommend next time that you go for a trifecta of 'Copyright can be used for good, Apple produce the best phones in the world, SCO should have won,' for maximum downvotes.

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While labels do provide a service, that service is often over-inflated. The labels simply have deals with venues, know people and whatnot but do not actually produce anything other than a logo. The labels realize that without the artists, they're irrelevant. This leads to the labels creating very prohibitive contracts and whatnot that bind the artist many many magnitudes more than it binds them.

I believe more artists aren't speaking out because it'd mean putting their contracts on the line and likely there is part of the agreement where the artists are called to defend the label and render it harmless. Expect Trent Reznor to no longer really make public commentaries on the state of the industry.

The problem is signing on with a label isn't any longer business deal, it's an employment contract because the labels are simply too large for an artist to try to get more realistic terms in a contract.

There are also music royalty groups for whenever a song is played on the radio or an 'authorized' streaming service, the royalties go into a pool, thing is, those pools are run by the labels. So if an independent gets a song played, the labels still get money from it, that's not a service, that's legalized theft.

The service is again, over-inflated and treated like the cornerstone of all entertainment. The labels have crafted the market so that they have become that way in order to essentially get leverage against independents to press them to sign on.

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Anonymous Coward

"If you were just trolling I'd recommend next time that you go for a trifecta of 'Copyright can be used for good'"

Well, of course it can: GPL, Creative Commons, etc. on one hand. On the other hand, it is a good tool to protect against plagiarism (i.e., where someone else takes credit for your work, rather than merely benefiting from its usage or enjoyment), and for the author and those closely involved in the creative process (producers, editors, etc.) to benefit from their effort.

It's when copyright gets traded as a commodity that things start getting ugly. And let's not talk about the "rights holders" playing the "you [i.e., the consumer] are robbing those poor artists" emotional blackmail deception card.

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FAIL

The Good Old Days

Before Orlowski starts ruminating about a past that existed in an industry he has never been directly part of, he should read Steve Albini's famous Maximum Rock & Roll article "The Problem with Music." I seem to recall Albini being quoted in a couple of Amanda Palmer articles and his writing style would be a good influence on Orlowski.

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FAIL

Re: The Good Old Days

Would that be the same Amanda Palmer who recently raised around $1.2 million on Kickstarter, spent a quarter of a million of that money on paying off her personal debts, failed to budget and project-manage her expensive hobby, pissed the rest of the money up the wall, then asked orchestra musicians—who are already paid peanuts as it is—to volunteer to play at some of her concerts for free?

All this while also being the wife of a multi-millionaire?

That Amanda Palmer?

And you seriously believe her thoughts and opinions on how to run a business properly are worth listening to, given the clear evidence of her utter ignorance and incompetence?

No wonder Western economies have tanked so badly: nobody seems to understand how to run businesses any more.

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WTF?

Re: The Good Old Days

If you READ the Steve Albini quotes in the Amanda Palmer stories, you would know he is definitely NOT supportive of Amanda Palmer's bizarre justifications of not paying her musicians.

Please try to take the time to read. It can be really help to make you look a lot smarter.

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Anonymous Coward

Freetards just don't get it

They think they are entitled.

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Re: Freetards just don't get it

Try to enlighten them. Explain to them how they are hurting the "industry" by downloading an album that said industry refuses to sell to them in their country? And won't even let them watch it on YouTube?

Pretty please?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Freetards just don't get it

"Explain to them how they are hurting the "industry" by downloading an album that said industry refuses to sell to them in their country? And won't even let them watch it on YouTube?"

Because they're not just downloading in such specific cases. They're downloading all the time and then using edge cases to justify it all of their copyright infringement.

At the end of the day, if somebody doesn't want to sell you their product, you just have to learn to deal with it.

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Re: Freetards just don't get it

So, your juvenile and contemptuous title is one-size-fits all, regardless of situation? And the Offense gets to lump all violators into one pool, but the Defense has to each stand on their own?

Gotcha. But, oh, you didn't explain how anybody get's hurt, just the righteous indignation.

It seems the problem here is that those wannabe consumers *have* dealt with their issue, and procured a copy of the item that they desire in such a way to not cause a loss of income to the "owner". And now said owner is upset that he didn't get money for something he didn't want to sell, and still has.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Freetards just don't get it

Denial and stupidity are not an acceptable nor effective legal defense. If you don't pay for the use of a copyright protected product or service, you can't have or use it. That's the law. Deal with it.

The judicial systems around the world are making this point clear to those who can't deal with reality.

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WTF?

"So long as your act didn't recoup its advance, you could enjoy a career for years with the best-sellers effectively subsidising you."

I think you've accidentally published a punch-line.

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Anonymous Coward

Does he have a brother called, say, Ribble, Great Ouse, or Mersey? ;)

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