Trent Reznor Figures Out How Rich People Can Sell Records

07/09/2009 1:08 PM |

e0c2/1247159314-trent.jpegThe Beastie Boys announced plans yesterday for a super-fancy deluxe reissue of their 1994 album, Ill Communication. Just like the treatments of Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head, It will be released in a million different formats and contain a bunch of rarities and alternate versions and remixes and all that stuff no one will ever listen to. Presumably just like you, I don’t find this news particularly interesting.

I do find Trent Reznor’s Twitter-based reaction to it somewhat interesting, though.

Beastie Boys / TopSpin get it right once again. This is how you sell music today.

This is sad, obviously, for a number of reasons. First of all, I still like to believe that you sell music—or at least experience some modicum of success as an artist—by making music that people like rather than preying on their nostalgia by repackaging music they used to like before they learned to like better stuff and selling it to them at inflated prices. And then there’s the obvious problem that in order to be in a position to do what the Beasties are doing, an artist must have had a period where they sold a shit-ton of albums, which, by his own logic, can’t happen anymore.

He’s probably not wrong, of course. But there’s just something about his tone, about his own willingness to employ exactly the same kind of business model, that makes you think if he’s concerned at all about falling record sales, it’s because of how its affecting his own enormous bank account—not because it signals a seismic shift where people don’t value records anymore, or because it might keep generations of young artists from achieving the same success he’s enjoyed.

4 Comment

  • I’m not a particular fan of Reznor and I’m sure he oversimplifies some points, but he actually posted a pretty interesting response to this concern:
    http://forum.nin.com/bb/read.php?30,767183

    You could argue that he’s still sort of coming this taking his own success for granted, but a lot of what he’s saying makes sense. And plenty of other artists have followed suit with this, most notably Radiohead, without getting as immediate or thoroughly called out as rich/out-of-touch/unconcerned with new bands.

  • Hey Jesse, yeah, I actually just saw that. You’re right — it’s a pretty reasonable response.

    About Radiohead, though. They definitely haven’t been called out for it as much because it was never really something they talked about. It was something they did, and that was pretty much it. Every music journalist in the world gave their two cents, of course, but the band was never really part of the dialogue the way Trent Reznor has been.

    And in a way, I respect him more for really getting in there and talking about it, especially now that he’s actually addressing younger, less established artists. What got strange with the Radiohead thing when that happened was that people seemed to view it as something that would be a real game-changer for the whole industry, when the truth was there’s probably not even a dozen other artists on the planet who could pull it off financially. And I felt like with the tweet about the Beastie Boys, Reznor was making another potentially damaging generalization about the music industry, based on three very, very rich white rappers.

  • @ Jesse That post on nin.com with his nuggets of wisdom is a rip-off…

  • Reznor writes very little about how people-other-than-him find new music, based on his advice about online self-promotion to unknown bands. He’s a NARCISSIST. Thanks to TR for telling every wannabe rockstar with a pre-installed copy of Garageband how to make the internet even MORE of a trash-infested cesspool than it already is. After all, don’t you know, letting a record company do all the hard work for you for 18 years (most of which he spent drugged out and drunk) means you will end up an expert on artist development and promotion! Who needs a “mafia” to separate the good stuff from the crap? That’s my assistants’ job! Yay internetz!

    Note, that Reznor doesn’t point out that his label for Interscope made NO MONEY.

    I can’t wait for him to share his “expertise” on television production. After all, he’s been watching TV for 44 years! He KNOWS the industry! Move over Norman Lear, Trent Reznor is here!