Trying To Get To You

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bad Reputation

Trent Reznor announced on Monday that Nine Inch Nails are out of their deal with Interscope Records and are not going to resign with a major label, going the Radiohead route of selling directly to the consumer. That's not surprising, given that he's been bad mouthing his label for a long time, even urging his fans to steal his CD's. It's also a move that makes sense given the fact that the avenues for mass exposure for a band like Nine Inch Nails (alternative radio and MTV) no longer deliver the results they once did.

But what I find fascinating are the comments on the Nine Inch Nails home page. It's over 1400 comments, 99% of which are filled with invective towards the major labels. That's not surprising either, given the anti-establishment bent of NIN's music, and the fact that "the man" is never popular in such a camp. But the intensity of the vitriol is worth noting (especially given recent events: Radiohead's decision to self-release their music, and the R.I.A.A. winning their first trial against a file-sharer); you really get a sense that the reputation of the record industry is probably a notch or two below child molester.
I'm not going to argue the truth or untruth about the perception of the major labels. (It lies somewhere in the middle.) But in a business environment where consumers are super-empowered in their choices in how to consume music, I believe that how labels are perceived by consumers is their number one challenge to turning their business around. And winning $220,000 judgements against single mothers may be a "victory," but it will be, in the long run, a Pyrrhic one.


Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say I like your blog. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Just as our country should consider making people not want to attack us, the record industry should consider making people not want to steal from them. I'm not sure how this is done, but it sounds like you have the right idea (i.e. not suing single mothers for 200+ grand).

What I really thought was interesting was what you wrote before about how the music industry is fine; it's just the record industry that's hurting. That's never mentioned in the mainstream media. And it's so unique of a case because the demand is still present, but the owners have lost control of the supply. Who is at fault then?

This might be far-reaching, but it seems like the more the record industry provides quality product (I've sat at music critics' desks and seen the scores of shitty CDs no one will ever hear) and the more they support the fight against the rising cost-of-living, the better off their business will be.

Respect the music fans and the majority of them will respect you back.

"Someone hit the big score. They figured it out, that we're gonna do it anyway, even if it doesn't pay."
--Gillian Welch

Ben Lazar said...

I believe one of the biggest obstacles for the record business turning things around is the word "fault." Placing blame - on technology, fans who "steal", radio, MTV not playing videos, etc., only serves to blind the record business to what possibilities THEY can create and be responsible for, as opposed being at the mercy of outside forces and events.

The labels need to face a fact that the Radiohead model showed: Paying for music is optional. Yes, there are some people who will pay $0 no matter what. But there are many who are willing to pay for music voluntarily, especially when they know that they're respected and valued by the entity that is asking them to pay. Radiohead acts with respect toward their fans and customers. The record industry acts as though their customers are public enemy #1. Which do you think will succeed?

Private Beach said...

One reason fans don't respect the record companies is, paradoxically, that they respect the artists. Generally, record companies are perceived (often accurately) as screwing the artists as well as the consumers.