Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails lets rip at ignorant record companies

By Neala Johnson for Herald Sun on May 17, 2007

On stage at the Metro on Monday night, it seemed you’re enjoying being a rock star again. True?

It’s funny you’d say that ‘cos that was not one of my favourite shows

It went downhill at one point.

Yeah. I enjoy playing these days. I try to make the most of it and sometimes its great fun and sometimes, like Monday (Sunday – naut) night when it was crippled with technical problems it made it not fun. I couldn’t hear what was going on, shit was breaking....

Fools in the crowd were yelling..

Yeah, mixed feelings about that. I mean, if you want me to go of on a tangent...I’m kind of in a weird space right now. I’m not real centred. We’ve been touring for a long time. I went from the record right into the tour, nine weeks in Europe in winter, which I don’t recommend in any circumstance for anybody. I’m moving. There’s some stuff in my personal life that’s up.

It must be an odd time then to have a new album, Year Zero, out?

It’s a very odd time to be a musician on a major label, because there’s so much resentment towards the record industry that its hard to position yourself in a place with the fans where you don’t look like a greedy arsehole. But at the same time, when our record came out I was disappointed at the number of people that actually bought it. If this had been 10 years ago I would think “well not that many people are into it. OK, kinda sucks. Yeah I could point fingers but the blame would be with me, maybe I’m not relevant.” But 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.

You’re a bit of a computer geek. You must have been there too?

Oh, I understand that – I steal music too, I’m not gonna say I don’t. But it’s tough not to resent people for doing it when you’re the guy making the music, that would like to reap a benefit from that. On the other hand, you got record labels that are doing everything they can to piss people off and rip them off. I created a little issue down here because the first thing I did when I got to Sydney is I walk into HMV, the week the record’s out, and I see it on the racks with a bunch of other releases. And eery release I see: .99, .99, .99. And ours doesn’t have a sticker on it. I look close and ‘Oh its .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 there. And I can’t figure out why that would be.

Did you have a word to anybody?

Well, in Brisbane I end up meeting and greeting some record label people, who are pleasant enough, and one of them is a sales guy, so I say “Why is this the case?” He goes “because your packaging is a lot more expensive”. I know how much the packaging costs – its cost me, not them, it costs me 83 cents more to have a DC with the colour-changing ink on it. I’m taking the hit on that, not them. So I said, “Well it doesn’t cost more” “Ah well you’re right, it doesn’t. Basically it’s because know you’ve got a core audience that’s gonna buy whatever we put out, so we can charge more for that. It’s the pop stuff we have to discount to get people to buy it. True fans will pay whatever”. And I just said “that the most insulting thing I’ve heard. I’ve garnered a core audience that you feel its OK to rip off? Fuck you”. That’s also why you don’t see any label people here, ‘cos i said “Fuck you people Stay out of my fucking show. If you wanna come, pay the ticket like anyone else. Fuck you guys.” They’re thieves. I don’t blame people for stealing music if this is the kind of shit that they pull off.

Where does that extra on your album go?

That money’s not going into my pocket, I can promise you that. It’s just these guys who have fucked themselves out of a job essentially that now take it out on ripping off the public. 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.

Given all that, do you have any idea how to approach the release of your next album?

I’ve have one record left that I owe a major label, then I will never be seen in a situation like this again. If I could do what I want right now, I would put out my next album, you could download it from a site at as high a bitrate as you want, pay through PayPal. Come see the show and buy a tshirt 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 ti’s done in the studio, not this “let’s wait three months bullshit”

When your US label, Interscope, discovered the web based alternate reality game (ARG) you’d built around Year Zero, were they happy for the free marketing or angry you hadn’t let them in on it?

I chose to do this on my own, at great financial expense to myself, because I knew they wouldn’t understand what it is, for one. And secondly, I didn’t want it coming from a place of marketing, I wanted it coming from a place that was pure to the project. It’s a way to present the story and the backdrop, something I would be excited to find as a fan. I knew the minuted i talked to someone at the record label about it, they would be looking at it in terms of “How can we tie this in with a mobile provider?” That’s what they do. If something lent itself to that, Ok, I’m not opposed to the idea of not losing a lot of money (laughs). But it would only be if it made sense. I’ve had to position myself as the irrational, stubborn, crazy artists. At the end of the day, I’m not out to sabotage my career, but quality matters, and integrity matters. Jumping through any hoop or taking advantage of any desperate situation that comes up just to sell a product is harmful. It is.

Is the Year Zero ARG something labels will copy now?

Well, their response, when they saw that it did catch on like wildfire, was “look how smart we are they way we marketed this record”. That’s the feedback I’ve gotten – other artists who’ve met with that label ask ‘em about it; “yeah, you like what we did for Trent? Look what we did for Trent”. They’ve then gone on to try to buy the company that did it to apply it to all their other acts. So, glad I could help them out. I’m sure they still don’t understand what it is that we did or why it worked. But I will look forward to the Black Eyed Peas ARG, that should be amazing.

Transcribed by JessicaSarahS

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