It’s no surprise that things are just a little bit off in the music business today. What with file sharing, over-commercialization of award ceremonies, streaming sites, and stuff like soundcloud and bandcamp that make any band able to be heard. Things have changed quite a bit over the past 10 years even, not to mention the last 20 years. It shows too. People like Gene Simmons are claiming that rock is dead, U2 released their newest album for free (as well as a lot of other artists releasing stuff for free), Thom Yorke released his newest project by torrent, and no album will hit platinum status this year. Music is going through so many changes and growing pains, and every artist is just trying to make the most of it. We’re living in the in-between time for the music industry. Where things are too fucked up to stay the same, but nobody knows what the best way to change it. It’s something every music news section is talking about, this one included. Lots of artists are coming forward and talking about it too, from all different perspectives, and different genres.
BBC hosted a speech by Iggy Pop, and tons of other artists have talked about their ideas on where the business is going. Now, however, it’s Trent Reznor’s turn to talk about it. The Nine Inch Nails founder recently sat down with Billboard to talk about a wide array of subjects, and it eventually fell on his recent work with Apple. It seems like it’s almost impossible for someone to bring up Apple in the context of music without bringing up U2. This was no exception... Reznor talked about what U2 did wrong with the free release of the album by saying
"As an artist, when I make a piece of music, I'd like you to know it's out there. I don't want to force it down your throat, but I would like you to know that if you'd like to, you might brush against it -- it exists somewhere. So I can see the incentive behind what they wanted to do. I was with Bono that day. I was at the Apple event and we were hanging out after they did it. There's an immense sense of pride toward the album he just spent several years making. He was very proud of what he did. I think the misstep was the wording: If it would've been, ‘Here it is, if you want it, come grab it...’ I am assuming the momentum of that situation led to the oversight in not thinking that people might feel intruded upon.”
To paraphrase a bit, Reznor believes that the band shouldn’t have just given it to everyone with an iTunes account, and should’ve let people who were interested in listening to it, download it for free off of iTunes instead. It’s a more sensible approach to giving away an album, definitely.
The new Beyonce album was also included in the discussion, as it had a higher price than average, and Reznor talked about the value of music by saying
“It's something I spent a lot of time thinking about. I think that paying for music is a relic of an era gone by -- and I'm saying that as somebody who hopes you pay for music. I've spent my life trying to make this thing that now everyone thinks should be free. U2, there [was] an incentive to get in front of as many eyes as possible. I can see what was appealing to them about that, and they're getting paid for it. There's the argument of, ‘Did that help further devalue music?’ Yes, I think it did. When you put your music on, or allow your music to be on, YouTube, which is free, is that [devaluing music]? There's a whole generation of kids that listen to music on YouTube, and they'll suffer through that ad if there is one. They're not going to pay a dollar for that song -- why would you? It's a complex problem.”
In any sense, it’s hard to say that music hasn’t lost it’s value over the past couple of years. Just by seeing so many artists today struggle to do things differently is evidence enough for that.
So, while the industry goes through these growing pains, just listen to music in whatever form is most comfortable to you. Be it vinyl, CDs, iTunes, spotify, Pandora, XM radio, FM radio, or even cassettes. Let everything happen, and once a new business model has been decided upon, the industry won’t have to change again for another couple of decades.
You can read the interview here