Trent Reznor: ‘I steal music too’

Trent Reznor: ‘I steal music too’

Wants to offer $4 dollar album downloads at a bitrate of your choice, and blames the record industry for its own problems by having ripped off customers for so many years.

NIN seems to be leading the way for how the music industry of the future should be, taking on high priced CD albums and mindless record label execs bent on getting every nickel and dime it can get no matter what the cost to its music artists and image.

Last week I wrote about one of NIN’s blog postings in which Trent Reznor, the band’s outspoken frontman, railed against overpriced CDs and lamented that “No wonder people steal music.” Apparently while on a sojourn in Australia he browsed the racks of a brick and mortar CD store (guess at least one country still has them) and was angered by the fact that his new “Year Zero” album was retailing for $29 USD. Yes $29 USD!! As an artist I’d be angry too.

Well, a few days later it seems he was interviewed by Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper and they asked him about file-sharing and his thoughts on the state of physical CD prices.

The most interesting response he gave was to the question of illegally downloading music, to which he answered “…I steal music too, I’m not gonna say I don’t.” Is Trent hardcore or what?

He goes on to say that sure he resents people getting his stuff for free but, unlike most other artists it seems he knows who’s actually to blame for the whole file-sharing mess — record labels. He says that “… you got record labels that are doing everything they can to piss people off and rip them off.” That’s right, Mr. Reznor has been blessed with a clarity of thought and mind that’s been sadly lacking from the music industry for some time now.

I mean, what was the music industry thinking way back in 1999 with Napster, that the digital music and portable music players would just somehow disappear? That there would be some mass Third Reich iPod-burnings or something? Digital music IS the future and to watch them be constantly slapped like a hysterical child every year grows not only tiresome but, downright shameful.

For an industry that prides itself on enough numbers, sales, figures, trends, and statistical reports to have turned music sales into a downright science, how is that they keep failing to see that people no longer want to buy CDs, and especially at $30 bucks a pop!

Reznor also describes his CD shopping experience in more detail than he did in his blog. He writes:

I walk into HMV, the week the record’s out, and I see it on the rack with a bunch of other releases. And every release I see: $21.99, $22.99, $24.99. And ours doesn’t have a sticker on it. I look close and ‘Oh, it’s $34.99′. So I walk over to see our live DVD Beside You in Time, and I see that it’s also priced six, seven, eight dollars more than every other disc on there. And I can’t figure out why that would be.

Reznor, never one to refrain from speaking his mind, ends up confronting one of the record label “sales guys” at a meet and greet during his stay in Brisbane. He asks them why his CDs and DVDs cost 6,7, and even 8 more dollars then everybody elses.

The sales guy says it’s “Because your packaging is a lot more expensive.” But, apparently Reznor pays for this out of his cut form the CD, so this is a moot argument. “I know how much the packaging costs — it costs me, not them, it costs me 83 cents more to have a CD with the colour-changing ink on it. I’m taking the hit on that, not them.”

The sales guy then basically says that it’s okay to charge more because he has a “…core audience that’s gonna buy whatever we put out, so we can charge more for that.”

That’s when Reznor gets really pissed off and takes the guy to task, saying it’s messed up that they feel they can rip off his audience just because they’re more loyal fans. That’s when the conversation gets really good, and man I wish I was there to hear it.

He noted:

And I just said “That’s the most insulting thing I’ve heard. I’ve garnered a core audience that you feel it’s OK to rip off? F— you’. That’s also why you don’t see any label people here, ‘cos I said ‘F— you people. Stay out of my f—ing show. If you wanna come, pay the ticket like anyone else. F— you guys”. They’re thieves. I don’t blame people for stealing music if this is the kind of s— that they pull off.

You gotta love it.

It gets even better when he observes that “…these guys who have f—ed themselves out of a job essentially, that now take it out on ripping off the public.” You have to feel for the guy because he here is trying to make a living and these idiot record label execs are making a tough situation even worse by making it even more painful for people just wanting to support to band by buying their albums. It’s tragic really.

“I’ve got a battle where I’m trying to put out quality material that matters and I’ve got fans that feel it’s their right to steal it and I’ve got a company that’s so bureaucratic and clumsy and ignorant and behind the times they don’t know what to do, so they rip the people off.”

He said that he use to take it personally when album sales would stink that “Well, not that many people are into it. OK, that kinda sucks. Yeah I could point fingers but the blame would be with me, maybe I’m not relevant.” But, now he sees that that is perhaps no longer the case, that album sales are sinking because people just aren’t buying albums like they used to, instead buying digital singles, and also that they’re simply tired of getting ripped off.

“…on this record, I know people have it and I know it’s on everybody’s iPods, but the climate is such that people don’t buy it because it’s easier to steal it,” he comments.

But, he does have a plan for the future in which after the next album he owes the record label is completed he will turn to releasing the albums on his own. “You could download it from my site at as high a bit-rate as you want, pay $4 through PayPal. Come see the show and buy a T-shirt if you like it. I would put out a nicely packaged merchandise piece, if you want to own a physical thing. And it would come out the day that it’s done in the studio, not this “Let’s wait three months” bulls—.”

Now $4 bucks is a price that I certainly would pay, especially that not only is it cheap and would it go directly to the artist themselves but, it would also provide another alternative to the idiot record label sales guys out there who are bent on ripping off music customers just because they happen to be loyal fans.

Rock on Trent!