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Trent Reznor Abandons D.I.Y. And Returns To A Major Label

Trentreznor300Celebrated singer-songwriter and music producer Trent Reznor has been an independent recording artist ever since he left Interscope Records in 2007. After founding his own record label in 2008 and releasing music independently, the Academy Award winning musician has reverted back to the majors for help in releasing his latest project through Columbia Records, pointing out that “complete independent releasing has its great points, but also comes with shortcomings.”

Howtodestroyangelshtdapng-1348439380The former Nine Inch Nails frontman's new group, How to Destroy Angels, is a collaborative project with his wife Mariqueen Maandig and frequent collaborator Atticus Ross (whom he helped score The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with). The group’s second EP entitled “An Omen” is set to debut on November 13th digitally and on vinyl containing six songs. The release will be followed up with videos and live concert dates, as well as a full-length release due out next spring.

Reznor wrote on his Facebook that this release, as well as the group's "next series of releases," would be made available in “partnership” with Columbia Records.

“Regarding our decision to sign with Columbia, we’ve really spent a long time thinking about things and it makes sense for a lot of reasons, including a chance to work with our old friend Mark Williams,” Reznor wrote. “There’s a much more granular and rambling answer I could give (and likely will in an interview someplace) but it really comes down to us experimenting and trying new things to see what best serves our needs. Complete independent releasing has its great points but also comes with shortcomings.”

Reznor’s use of the word "partnership" indicates that the group hasn’t signed a complete 360 deal and is more likely involved in a 50/50 or a record-to-record deal. The shortcomings that Reznor is referring to that come along with “complete independence" may mean that Reznor is perhaps seeking commercial radio play for his How to Destroy Angels project – something that major labels like Columbia can certainly help in attaining. This makes sense for Reznor, for it was terrestrial radio that attributed to NIN's commercial breakthrough and made room for their incredibly high sales figures and worldwide tours.

Still though, this partnership comes as a bit of a surprise considering how outspoken Reznor is in his skepticism of major labels.

"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," Reznor said after his contractual obligation with Interscope ended back in 2007.

The musician has also been one of the strongest voices advocating the D.I.Y. route for musicians and has been seen to regularly share his advice for independents to distribute their work. In fact, Reznor's name has been quite synonymous with "DIY" over the years as a go-to example of an artist that has worked to build a fan base over time and relies on close personal connections with fans to monetize his art.

Ever since his split with Interscope, Reznor has released and sold all of his recordings (even The Social Network soundtrack) through his own website and social networks – retaining all of his royalties. While he will now be giving up a piece of the pie to Columbia, Reznor seems to find enough value in what the major label “machine” will provide for his latest project to justify the exchange. 

Hisham Dahud is a Senior Analyst for Additionally, he is the head of Business Development for Fame House and an independent musician. Follow him on Twitter: @HishamDahud