Trent Reznor: From Record Label to DIY and Back Again

Trent Reznor, formerly of Nine Inch Nails and currently of How To Destroy Angels, recently announced that he and his band have “formally partnered with Columbia Records for our next series of releases.”


I took a class a few months ago called Survey of the Music Business. Our final paper was to write about a national/celebrity musician who embraced a facet of the music business that we valued. As an independent musician who does everything DIY, I decided Trent Reznor was a great celebrity to discuss. He has gone fully DIY over the years and has not only been very innovative, but has been very vocal about it as well.

A few highlights from my paper:

            Trent Reznor is a proponent of getting his music to his fans in ways that side-step the major channels such as radio or MTV. In 2005 he made his album “With Teeth” available for streaming on MySpace prior to its official release. He also placed a promotional video for the song “The Hand That Feeds” on his personal website rather than go through television channels.
            Trent was also ahead of the curve in releasing his music to fans to manipulate. In 2005, just three years after Creative Commons released the first version of its licenses, Trent released the source files in Garage Band format for “The Hand That Feeds” and encouraged fans to remix the song. He later released a second song from the album with additional available formats.
            Avoiding major digital retailers, Trent released his 2008 instrumental album “Ghosts I-IV” on his website and offered the album for download in higher-quality formats than the usual outlets could offer. He even offered (and still offers) the first volume for free. Despite the free content, his $300 limited edition packages sold out. In addition to the unusual style of the release, the album was licensed under Creative Commons.

So what about all of that success you had without a label, Trent?

I guess I cannot fault him, after all, he DID start off with a label, and perhaps he would have just stayed a local band to me in Cleveland, Ohio if his early labels had not shot Nine Inch Nails to popularity. He became a master of self promotion over the years, but he DID have a bit of a head start thanks to labels. He says in his facebook post that “complete independent releasing has its great points but also comes with shortcomings.” I do understand that.

For all the boasting he has done about being independent, I sure would love to hear more about why he is changing his course 180 degrees. Call it professional curiosity.