An Academic Study Of Connecting With Fans & Giving Them A Reason To Buy

from the cwf+rtb dept

Nearly four years ago, I gave a presentation at the Midem music industry conference, called How Trent Reznor & Nine Inch Nails Represent the Future of the Music Business Model, in which we first discussed the concept of CwF+RtB=$$$ -- or how Connecting with Fans plus giving them a Reason to Buy was the future model. While some are incorrectly suggesting that Reznor's recent decision to work with a major label somehow takes away from that point, I've yet to see any example of how he's no longer connecting with fans or giving them a reason to buy -- or how that's become any less important for musicians (or other creative artists) these days.
Either way, I found it interesting to hear that Steven Brown, a student at Glasgow Caledonian University, has taken that presentation and published an academic article about it in the Empirical Musicology Review, entitled Artist autonomy in a digital era: The case of Nine Inch Nails. The paper goes through my presentation and looks at related academic research to see if there's support for the theories I discussed. I don't necessarily agree with everything stated, but it is interesting to try to put it all into the context of academia. Here's a snippet:
That these three factors may be partially responsible for the strong relationship between fan and artist in the case of Nine Inch Nails, is made all the more plausible in light of the findings of another qualitative study, by Saarikallio and Erkkila (2007), who explored the role of music in adolescents’ mood regulation. Seven unique regulatory strategies were identified, including solace, where particular attention is paid to lyrics - often in isolation. The authors noted that participants identified with the lyrics, and felt that the songwriter had faced up to feelings, worries and experiences similar to their own, helping them to connect with the artist. Given Reznor’s often dark lyrics and relatively narrow lyrical palette principally concerning themes of isolation, abandonment, loss and belongingness, it is likely the lyrics of Nine Inch Nails are a fundamental attraction to Reznor’s music. His naked lyrics help form a unique relationship with adolescents in particular, with consequent influence on consumer purchasing behaviours via age-based musical preferences. Furthermore, by engaging with Reznor, fans are ultimately drawn to him on a more personal level where reciprocity is more likely to be carried out. To this end, elusive superstars such as Madonna are perhaps more likely to suffer from piracy where blogging, fanclubs with exclusive interviews etc are likely means for musicians to help create a way of allowing their fans to engage with them on a more personal level, leading to reciprocal behaviour.

Reciprocity forms the basis of Shultz’s (2006) research into jambands; defined as bands whose live sets include much improvisation and variation and who allow their fans to record their live shows, copying and distributing them freely. The phrase is befitting for Grunge veterans Pearl Jam, who have been offering fans soundboard quality recordings of their live shows since 2000. These ‘unofficial bootlegs’ provide fans with documents of their live concert experiences, where as Masnick (2009) stated, live music is the ultimate form of connecting with fans and providing them with a reason to buy. Exploring the success of Tori Amos’ use of ‘official bootlegs’, Farrugia and Gobbato (2010) argue that Amos’ efforts at personalising each show increases the perceived value of each recording to those who were there. Amos and Powers (2005) note for example how throughout the 2005 Beekeeper tour Amos solicited fan requests for cover songs via her website, performing at least two of her fan requests. This level of interaction helps crystallise the importance of the relationship between fan and artist in creating a successful working relationship, adhering to supply and demand traditions, and subsequently increasing the likelihood to purchase hard copies of live music documents.

Such recordings can of course be easily obtained illegally for free and many fans are likely to do so, without affecting ticket sales. Those who do pay for them are the hardcore fans who enjoy bootlegs (Naghavi & Schulze, 2001) and circulation of their live recordings both legally and otherwise form part of the reciprocal relationship between artist and fan. In Shultz’s (2006, p. 657) words ‘the music industry thus needs to think in terms of building loyal communities that have reciprocal relationships with artists rather than simply moving physical products into the hands of consumers’.
Interestingly, the paper (obviously written prior to Reznor's recent announcement) notes that the research suggests different strategies at different times in a band's development -- and wonders what sort of distribution model Reznor would choose for his new projects. No matter what, it's great to discover a number of academic studies related to these topics that I had not yet seen. I'll have to spend some time digging through them.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 12:48am

    Sadly, much of it is for not, because Reznor (the shining example) has chosen to go back to the label method of promotion, realizing that it's the best way to get the job done.

    A student's paper, while filled with interesting tidbits, certainly shows that the author sort of wants to ignore the better choices out there. A rock looks like a very good way to drive nails, if you completely ignore things like hammers and nailguns.

    Reznor has experience with both, and he has put down the rock and picked up the nail gun for the next part of his work.

     

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  2.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 1:17am

    Re:

    "Reznor (the shining example) has chosen to go back to the label method of promotion, realizing that it's the best way to get the job done."

    I see your bias showing again...

    For this specific project he's chosen a major label. For the next he may not. He may simply have been able to get agreements that 4-5 years ago the majors were too closed-minded and arrogant to offer in the first place. It may have been the success he's had with his other experiments that led the label to agree to his needs rather than trying to force outdated and unworkable models upon him.

    There's many reasons why it may have happened, and you haven't understood the basic arguments that were being made in the first place if you think that Reznor's decision changes what was being said in the first place. Until all the details are released we can't be sure, but stop trying to pretend this changes anything.

     

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  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 1:20am

    omg.

    Reznor signed with Columbia, Masnick.

    Your moment passed. You seriously need to deal with that.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 1:23am

    Re: Re:

    lol

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 1:31am

    Re: Re:

    Yes Paul, perhaps he won't for his next thing. However, his choice here is telling: Without the pure pull of the NIN name (built up through years in the label system), he was concerned not to get distribution, not to get radio play, and not to be "big". So he signed a label deal.

    "There's many reasons why it may have happened, and you haven't understood the basic arguments that were being made in the first place if you think that Reznor's decision changes what was being said in the first place."

    I think it's key. No matter how good the arguments are for certain business models and actions, it's clear that Reznor didn't think it enough to get it done. While he has made a choice as to what is the most effecient for his new project, you (and the student) seem to be stuck look at things in only one way. Perhaps you might want to reconsider, as Reznor has. Given that, the student might have poked a few more holes in Mike's grand unified theory of music life.

     

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  6.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 1:42am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "However, his choice here is telling"

    No, it's not, not unless you place your own assumption on to his actions. Unless you add your own bias or have other statements from Reznor to explain his choice, all you know is that for this particular project he agreed to the terms a major was offering him.

    "Perhaps you might want to reconsider, as Reznor has"

    Try reading my actual words. I have nothing to reconsider. I supported his previous experiments. I will support this one. If it works I will congratulate him. If it doesn't, I will criticise him - but I won't pretend that means the entire business model is a failure. Get it?

    If you try to apply other opinions on me, you're addressing yet another strawman of your own creation.

    "Given that, the student might have poked a few more holes in Mike's grand unified theory of music life."

    Oh so now you support him? I thought that you were saying above that "A student's paper... shows that the author sort of wants to ignore the better choices out there.". Make up your mind. Is he ignoring better choices, or is he supporting them?

     

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  7.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 1:57am

    Re: Re: Re:

    In the 21st century, treating fans as fans and not a walking wallets is the key. There is so much great music out there and I, for one, will support the musician who makes me feel valued as a fan.

     

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  8.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 1:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    PS NIN suck anyway

     

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  9. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 2:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Techdirt cultists have now been distilled down to about 7-8 guys like this angry douchebag.

     

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  10.  
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    saulgoode (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 2:22am

    While some are incorrectly suggesting that Reznor's recent decision to work with a major label somehow takes away from that point, I've yet to see any example of how he's no longer connecting with fans or giving them a reason to buy...
    Perhaps Joel Tenenbaum could explain about how Mr Reznor's label is "connecting with fans".

     

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  11.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 2:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Ah, another AC jumps in to defend the lies of his brethren. Name calling, distortion and avoiding the points being raised. Two comments, nothing of substance, nothing of intelligence.

    If only you people were interested in an actual conversation, huh?

     

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  12.  
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    Zakida Paul (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 3:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The ACs don't know any other way. Name calling and bawbaggery is their reason for living.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 4:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    ""A student's paper... shows that the author sort of wants to ignore the better choices out there.". Make up your mind. Is he ignoring better choices, or is he supporting them?"

    Oh look, it's black and white choice time again. You really need to be more subtle. If he had known Reznor's next choice, he might have been more critical of Mike's ideas rather than just embracing them and regurgitating them. When you know that the answer isn't supported by the evidence given, maybe he would have thought that he didn't have all of the evidence.

    "Try reading my actual words. I have nothing to reconsider. I supported his previous experiments. I will support this one. If it works I will congratulate him. If it doesn't, I will criticise him - but I won't pretend that means the entire business model is a failure. Get it?"

    Funny, you seem to be very touchy about Reznor's choice, like he has broken your trust or something. Relax, he just chose a label deal in order to get top promotion, top exposure, and top distribution. He's got the experience you lack in the area, and made his choice accordingly.

    Remember, he was one of the first to walk away from a label deal, perhaps he's the first in a line of people walking back.

    "If you try to apply other opinions on me,"

    I just take what you say over time here and react accordingly. Perhaps you might want to review your own angry comments in others to understand where I come from.

     

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  14.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 4:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That.

    I supported his previous experiments. I will support this one. If it works I will congratulate him. If it doesn't, I will criticise him - but I won't pretend that means the entire business model is a failure. Get it?

    I'm amused the trolls think that the fact he decided to go for a label now invalidates previous experiences. There are many questions to be asked that would simply put the ip maximalists to shame.

    - Would a label have accepted them if they chose to go that way from the beginning?
    - Would he have built a healthy CwF relation if he chose a label from the start?
    - Did he get a better deal from the label because he already has a good fanbase?
    - Would he have that level of freedom and independence if he chose a label from the start?

    Of course there are many other questions that could be asked here and by no means I know the true answer for those. However what is clear to me is that the usual critics fail when they fix their ideas in stone and accept a single immutable model for the artist or ignore that two or more models can co-exist and work perfectly fine.

    Also, disdaining the work because a student made it is rather telling from their shilling positions.

     

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  15.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 4:44am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Oh look, it's black and white choice time again."

    You are making directly contradictory statements that indicate different positions. I apologise if asking you to pick one confuses or offends you.

    "Funny, you seem to be very touchy about Reznor's choice, like he has broken your trust or something"

    No, I'm not. Quote where I've done anything but support Reznor's decision to move to a label if that's what's honestly best for him. You can't because I haven't. Without knowing the details of the deal, my mind is open, which is all I've ever said about it. Perhaps you mean my generally low opinion of major labels? As stated above, it's possible that someone has actually decided to offer what artists actually want, but I'm sure Reznor isn't diving into a bad deal, blindly accepting the negative he fled from in the first place.

    If I'm "touchy" about anything (what is it about stating my opinion that offends you people so?), it's that yet again we have people trying to distort the truth to pretend that Mike and/or Reznor have failed. He made one decision 4-5 years ago that worked, now he's making another decision. We'll see how it works out, that's all, and then we'll discuss the positives and negative as we have done previously. Stop with the attempts to score points off him because he happened to be the most prominent example of alternative models several years ago - what he's done does nothing to invalidate the actual points being raised, now or then.

    "Remember, he was one of the first to walk away from a label deal, perhaps he's the first in a line of people walking back."

    Which is what I've said, and I'm not reading anything into it other than at this exact moment in time that's what was best for this particular project in Reznor's mind. I'm certainly not extrapolating the decision one way or another, as you are.

    Why do you pretend I am doing so? Am I not fitting neatly enough into one of those simplistic boxes you always try to attack so that you don't have to think too hard about my real position?

    "I just take what you say over time here and react accordingly. Perhaps you might want to review your own angry comments in others to understand where I come from."

    Quote them, then I'll address whether you've interpreted them correctly. reading comprehension does seem to be difficult for many ACs round here, and speaking as someone who's been attacked for piracy when he tells people why he bought something, you can forgive me for not taking your interpretation at face value.

    Until then, you seem to be coming up with fictional positions for me that don't match anything I've ever said, and often are the exact opposite of what I believe. That's intellectually dishonest at best, outright lying at worst.

     

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  16.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 4:54am

    Re:

    While some are incorrectly suggesting that Reznor's recent decision to work with a major label somehow takes away from that point, I've yet to see any example of how he's no longer connecting with fans or giving them a reason to buy -- or how that's become any less important for musicians (or other creative artists) these days.

    Here's the link so you can go see your comment preemptively debunked:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120925/09240120508/once-again-just-because-you-can-g o-indie-doesnt-mean-you-need-to.shtml

    Keep failing ;)

     

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  17.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 4:57am

    Re:

    The label has absolutely nothing to do with the connection. It is interesting to follow how things will develop though. It seems to me that Reznor doesn't really care about file sharing. Will we see yet one more case of labels ignoring what the artist wants and going after the fans? Should be an interesting experience.

     

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  18.  
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    The eejit (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 6:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's akin to saying you'll never eat again because you were at a Royal Banquet once. IT's asinine, misleading and derails the conversation - for make no mistake, there is a conversation to be had.

     

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  19.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 6:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You guys really are insufferable as you limp around for your victory lap before the winner has been announced. I would really like to see Reznor's old label contract and look at the new one he's signed. That would be a comparison for the ages. I would bet copyright ownership is probably with the artist and not the label. For a contract, two people need to sign it. Reznor believes Columbia can help with distribution of his album and Columbia thinks Reznor's music can still make them money. It is a two-sided deal. Reznor isn't scratching at Columbia's door on his hands and knees begging to come back.

     

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  20.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 7:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's really it. Only Reznor really knows why he's signed another label contract, but I doubt very much that it's the simplistic "he needed to go back to a label" narrative that's being pushed by some. The real story is likely to be far more complex, just as the actual arguments being discussed here have always been more complex than the "labels bad, free good" strawman they usually attack.

    That's the problem with these discussions. I would consider the case a very good starting point to discuss what has changed - in Reznor's career, in Columbia's setup, in the industry as a whole - and how the lessons learned might improve the relationships between artists, consumers and labels. Unfortunately, it's been decided by some that this should be instead be the end point, and that Reznor has failed merely by re-evaluating his position 5 years down the line. They start from a conclusion and work their arguments backwards.

     

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  21.  
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    Amy@SoSueMeJackass (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 7:20am

    But how do you get a video to go viral?

    Lots of discussion on crowdsourcing and music promotion, but as a technical know-nothing I am stumped on how to get a video to go viral. My sister and I have a youtube channel for legal questions with funny (but truthful) answers for real people:
    www.youtube.com/gururobin
    But how do you get the tide to turn? What causes the viral tipping point? Any ideas would be most appreciated.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I would really like to see Reznor's old label contract and look at the new one he's signed. That would be a comparison for the ages. I would bet copyright ownership is probably with the artist and not the label. "

    Actually, considering that Nothing was a boutique label made for and run by Reznor, I would say his old contract was pretty damn good. Only his inner demons and such really put that one into the shitter.

    "Reznor isn't scratching at Columbia's door on his hands and knees begging to come back."

    Nobody is suggesting that. You got the right answer, why try to make it sound any different? He can do better with a label deal than he can without it, plain and simple. It's not just a distribution deal (like Radiohead has) this is a real honest to god "signed with the label" deal, it seems.

    Reznor does what is good for him and marketing his product. His choice underlines and highlights the fact that online, freemium, infinite distribution, fan following, twittering, whatever... he has tried it all and decided that the label deal works better. Can you please look at that simple concept and deal with it?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 7:43am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I'm amused the trolls think that the fact he decided to go for a label now invalidates previous experiences. There are many questions to be asked that would simply put the ip maximalists to shame."


    First off, I am not a troll. It's pretty telling that your argument had to start with a attempt to insult and belittle the other side. Pretty much sums it up.

    As for the rest of your post, I think you need to learn some history. Your post tells me that you are probably under 20 years old and just don't have a clue.

     

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  24. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 7:44am

    Re:

    Repost to thwart censorship:

    omg.

    Reznor signed with Columbia, Masnick.

    Your moment passed. You seriously need to deal with that.


    When will you guys learn that the report button isn't for this sort of thing?

     

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  25.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 7:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "inner demons"?

    And you wonder why you're not taken seriously...

    Would you care to link to any facts about the nature of his new contract, his stated reasons for doing so and the relative benefits for him in this compared to other projects? I seem to lack the psychic mind link you seem to be suggesting you have with him, so I have to sadly rely on old-fashioned facts rather than simply "knowing" what he thinks.

     

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  26.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 7:58am

    Re: Re:

    When will you not only learn that the button is not censorship, but that it also specifically states that reporting of trolling is one of the intended uses?

    Or, if you want to entertain us, explain how the previous message doesn't count as trolling and is rather an intelligent, insightful counterpoint to be discussed seriously.

     

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  27.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 8:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So, you don't want to discuss the points he raised, just whine about how you know best and you're being mocked for your fact-free posts, then throw out insults of your own to show how grown up you are.

    If you're not a troll, why do you act like one? Why not actually address the points raised rather than reverting to the personal attacks you claim to dislike? Why not post some facts or address the questions being asked directly of you for once?

     

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  28.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 8:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You got the right answer, why try to make it sound any different? He can do better with a label deal than he can without it, plain and simple. It's not just a distribution deal (like Radiohead has) this is a real honest to god "signed with the label" deal, it seems.


    I'm not so sure of that. This sounds like a distribution & promotion deal to me. I'll give you 10 to 1 odds he will retain control of the copyright of his works, unlike a "traditional" label deal.

    From Hyperbot.com:
    Reznor’s use of the word "partnership" indicates that the group hasn’t signed a complete 360 deal and is more likely involved in a 50/50 or a record-to-record deal. The shortcomings that Reznor is referring to that come along with “complete independence" may mean that Reznor is perhaps seeking commercial radio play for his How to Destroy Angels project – something that major labels like Columbia can certainly help in attaining. This makes sense for Reznor, for it was terrestrial radio that attributed to NIN's commercial breakthrough and made room for their incredibly high sales figures and worldwide tours.

     

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  29.  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 9:43am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Think he'll enter an infinite loop if we keep reporting this and then he'll leave new articles free of his stupidity?

     

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  30.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 3:47pm

    From zero to troll told you so in 36 minutes.
    Is that a new record?

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 6:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    My guess is that he, like darryl, will go back to ancient posts and have a mad party in those threads, mocking everyone else who doesn't fellate the RIAA and think it's some sort of moral victory.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 2:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    " it's that yet again we have people trying to distort the truth to pretend that Mike and/or Reznor have failed."

    Nobody is saying he failed, that's your take. I am saying he has selected the most productive way to distribute his new project, and it's a label deal. Considering how vocal he was about NOT doing it in the past, you have to wonder what he learned, and why he is back to it.

     

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  33.  
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    PaulT (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 3:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Nobody is saying he failed, that's your take."

    No, it's what you said when you started blathering on about rocks and nails and saying the the non-label options were by nature inferior.

    "Considering how vocal he was about NOT doing it in the past, you have to wonder what he learned, and why he is back to it."

    Which is what I said - we don't know the facts and so we don't know his motivation so those are the things worth discussing. There's a million options as to why this might have been, ranging from the label finally being open to the things he'd been demanding all along without having to sell his soul this time, to there being very specific requirements for this particular project that the labels were best placed to provide. Maybe he's simply had personal issues that prevent him from putting the time into the more successful promotion he's previously had and decided to let someone else handle it this time. I don't know.

    But, I'm not the one making definitive claims here. I've suggested many options, none of which meant that there was anything wrong with what he was doing outside of the label system, nor that it's not workable for many other artists. If you're open minded, why not launch a discussion rather than an attack?

     

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  34.  
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    Robert (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 8:18am

    Reznor explains why he chose to work with a label

    http://exclaim.ca/News/trent_reznor_speaks_out_about_decision_to_return_to_major_label

    It was about expanding promotion, that's all, not "better off with a label" as David Lowery or "Bob" would have you believe.

     

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  35.  
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    birkin, Nov 19th, 2012 @ 12:37am

    I don't thinks it's good to label students.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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