In a fairly revealing interview with Spin, Trent Reznor reminds us of why it's often dangerous to turn musicians into ideological symbols. Reznor has had a strong association with DIY music but recently chose to take his work to Columbia Records. In opening up about his choices he ridicules current DIY approaches and reminds us that he's on a serious fantasy trip about Beats Music.
It's interesting to read this post by Trent Reznor from 2009 on getting known in music when you're an unknown. You can tell he's totally immersed in web-enabled DIY business for musicians. It's not just an opinion piece.
He also raised questions about social media that revealed how hands on he was:
"The reason no record label knows how to market anything to new media is they don't live there. They don't get it because they don't use it. What you've seen happen with the marketing and presentation of NIN over the last years is a direct result of living next to you, listening to you, consuming with you and interacting with you. Directly."
"There's no handlers or PR people here, it's me and my guys - that's it. There's no real plan, even - it's just trying to do the right thing that respects you the fan, the music, and me the artist. That's the goal - a mutual and shared respect."
Trent Reznor's Journey Back From DIY
Since then Trent Reznor has chilled on his absolutist stance regarding record labels and seemed to be going in a direction that recognized that different artists need different options depending on what they're trying to accomplish.
Yet he also seemed to be losing a bit of his technical edge as he bought into what still seems like Beats Music Kool-Aid, that Beats Music was taking a radical step forward by including human curation.
In his feature interview with SPIN, Reznor briefly references his views about Beats Music:
"I'm working on something with Beats that's a marriage of humanity and technology, which is sort of what my music has always been about."
I still think that's the Kool-Aid talking but it's important to feel good about what one is doing.
Is Reznor's Real Problem His Rigid All-or-Nothing Stance?
Reznor definitely feels good about working with Columbia Records but when he discusses the difference I start to get the feeling that he took DIY to an extreme:
"Being in control of your own destiny was great...It felt good to have my own neck on the line. But you spend a lot of time figuring out who the influential blogger at some radio station is. Market research is not a sexy thing to think about. More than that, when you're self-releasing, you have this walled garden of people that are interested in what you do, and to everyone else you're invisible."
I don't want to read too much into a situation with which I'm unfamiliar based on a few random comments but there are so many quality indie firms ready to help musicians with any aspect of what needs doing that I have to wonder if he got lost in DIY as Do-It-All-Yourself. It's as if he believes that one either does everything oneself or has to make some sort of record deal.
The Reznor Binary: Or Go Fuck Yourself
Taking an all-or-nothing stance actually fits Reznor's public presentation over time. From his early aesthetic to his later statements about DIY to his rude dismissal of DIY successes in the SPIN interview:
"I know that what we're doing flies in the face of the Kickstarter Amanda-Palmer-Start-a-Revolution thing, which is fine for her, but I'm not super-comfortable with the idea of Ziggy Stardust shaking his cup for scraps. I'm not saying offering things for free or pay-what-you-can is wrong. I'm saying my personal feeling is that my album's not a dime. It's not a buck. I made it as well as I could, and it costs 10 bucks, or go fuck yourself."
The line "it costs 10 bucks, or go fuck yourself" has found some resonance on Twitter with its punk veneer and whatever else is going on there for respondents.
But the about face in perspective, one that at first did not appear so extreme, now looks at documented successes and makes fun of them. Sure, he dismissively says it's okay for other people, but his message that "my way is the best way or fuck you" is quite clear.
[Thumbnail image courtesy LifeHouseDesigns.]
- Trent Reznor & David Byrne On DIY vs Major Labels
- Either Trent Reznor Is Clueless About Streaming Or Beats By Dre Is Taking A Radical Leap Forward
- Trent Reznor: What To Do As A New / Unknown Artist
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.