Nine Inch Nails frontman challenges Universal Music's price

By Richard Driver for BloggingStocks on May 17, 2007

Every now and again, you will read about a musician who is challenging the record label about pricing their albums. You will also read numerous blogs by me about how much albums cost these days, but the difference is that the musician is not the consumer of his own work. The challenge also speaks to the loyalty the musician has to their fan base. In that arena, the most recent account of this occurrence is the frontman for Nine Inch Nails, Trent Reznor, challenging Universal Music Groups overpricing the band's latest album Year Zero in Australia.

In an article by NME, Reznor questions why his fans should pay around in Australia while Avril Lavigne's only pay (the albums were released the same day). Apparently a label representative told him "it's because we know you have a real core audience that will pay whatever it costs when you put something out." Apparently, to Reznor and his fans, this means that the "reward for being a 'true fan'" is that "you get ripped off." So there is no ethical standing for the representative's statement, but it's likely the label is not going to change any pricing or promotion of the album. The only change that might occur is that Reznor and NIN find a new label (I'm not aware of the length of his contract with Universal).

This challenge from a musician is neither the first, nor the last, of such challenges that will occur. The most famous in fact, may be Tom Petty's challenge in the late 1970s because MCA (precursor to Universal – coincidence?) had raised the price of his album by a dollar more. A dollar is certainly a different value now than it was then, but the challenge is noteworthy because Petty won and the label did not raise the price. In the 90s, Petty moved to the Warner Music Group Corp. (NYSE: WMG) and MCA eventually became Universal. On the whole, since then Petty has been relatively quiet about the record industry, aside from 2002s The Last DJ rant. Perhaps Warner treats him better, or perhaps he just garnered a better deal with the label. Reznor may one day have a better bargaining position with the labels about album pricing overseas (that is a fundamental difference), but in the United States he is not "doomed" to sell high-priced albums to his fans.

Transcribed by Lt. Randazzo

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