Reznor Takes Connecting With Fans Mobile… For Free

from the nice-job dept

While my keynote presentation today at the Mesh Conference does mention Trent Reznor, luckily (for me) it’s not the same presentation I did at MidemNet… because, if it was, I’d have to do a last minute update on the presentation to take into account the new iPhone app that Reznor is releasing, which basically takes all of the features from the NIN website, and enables it on the iPhone… and then adds in a neat bit of location-based info so fans can find each other, or know where other fans happen to be. And, oh yeah, despite all the fuss about charging for iPhone apps, he’s releasing it for free — realizing that better enabling fans to connect will only help him further monetize other things later. The overall article is a great read as well, digging deeper into Reznor’s experiments, business model and thoughts on the process:

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t think music should be free. But the climate is such that it’s impossible for me to change that, because the record labels have established a sense of mistrust. So everything we’ve tried to do has been from the point of view of, ‘What would I want if I were a fan? How would I want to be treated?’ Now let’s work back from that. Let’s find a way for that to make sense and monetize it.”

He’s making the same point we’ve been making. It’s no longer about whether or not music “should” be free. That doesn’t matter any more. For most people it is free. So once you accept that, you start looking for ways to do more with it — and Reznor is doing much more with it than just about anyone else.

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Comments on “Reznor Takes Connecting With Fans Mobile… For Free”

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Weird Harold (user link) says:

Trent is doing what someone with a ton of money can do: Throw a ton of sh-t at the wall and see what sticks. He is trying all sorts of things that are probably quite good from the fan standpoint, and only hoping “Let’s find a way for that to make sense and monetize it.” .

He can afford to be wrong, which makes it possible for him to be a “leader”. it isn’t like suddenly he won’t have anyone at the shows, because those evil shiny discs made sure he is well known.

Michael says:

Re: Re:

And he’s doing it because there is no point in doing what everyone else does, which is to cry and whine and sue. There is NOTHING you can do about people downloading music for free, and all the whining and suing in the world will not change that fact. We are two steps ahead of any DRM or so called “protection” schemes, so he is actually trying to do something useful, rather than just riding the current down the drain like many others in the industry. And guess what? Its working. I bought his album online because I like what he stands for, when I could have just got it for free. Bottom line is, the record company has far less power and control than the consumer, and thats exactly how it should be.

R. Miles says:

Re: Re:

He can afford to be wrong, which makes it possible for him to be a leader.
I took the quotes off the word leader, because that’s exactly what he is.

Innovation is the key here. He may be rich enough to do these, but other bands are not. Which is perfect for them as they’ll adapt what does work for Trent to their business model(s).

This saves the garage band’s bucket load of money, which as you said, should be there given people pay for their works. Given all this money they have, using Trent’s ideas will make them more of it.

Hopefully leading to a contract which strips them of their rights to their own music, lost control of distribution, and earning pennies on the dollar, and whining about how the distributor is hurting fans.


Weird Harold (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:


I am saying that Trent can afford to try things that may or may not work. He has sold out concert tours (courtesy of the pushers of shiny plastic discs) such that he has the luxury to test the water and do things without concern for finding income to start with.

It’s sort of like twitter or facebook – with enough VC behind you, finding actual income is secondary to “connecting with an audience”.

Actually, if you look at the quote, it seems that Trent would be happier selling music, and is doing these things not because he thinks the shiny disc market is a bad way to do things, but rather because the price of music has gone to zero because of all the “infringing”.

antimatter3009 says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually, I think you’re 100% correct this time. Trent has realized and accepted the fact that you can longer just charge for music. He might not like it, but it is a fact. Therefore, he has to find a new business model. Luckily for him, he has the money to try new things.

For smaller bands, they don’t have the money to experiment. This is why no one blames the bands for the state of the industry. Rather, the recording companies, which have PLENTY of cash to try and find something new, are to blame as they are not even trying. Instead, they’re fighting tooth and nail against anything and everything that might cut into their model of “sell music, go to bank.”

In other words, you have just made exactly the point that most people around here are trying to make clear. The old model is dead, time to find a new one. If the industry would funnel their billions into finding a new model instead of preserving the old one we might be getting somewhere. As is, they’re just wasting money being the Larry and Richard to their business model’s Bernie.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s sort of like twitter or facebook – with enough VC behind you, finding actual income is secondary to “connecting with an audience”.

VC financing is not divorced from ‘actual income,’ it’s just usually longer visioned than the usual sources. (CF google.)

(and yeah, I know that quote wasn’t your actual sentiment, so I’m not going to actually make the shirt. It’s still funny, though. Admit it.)

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

I wouldn’t say he is throw “a ton of [excrement] at the wall.” Given that almost all his excrement has stuck quite well, I think it’s quite clear his actions are deliberate, planned, analyzed, and well-executed. That is what makes his actions so successful, not his popularity alone. Other large bands have tried alternatives with much less success.

Reznor happens to be an extremely sharp businessman, besides being a musician. If he wanted to, I have no doubt he could make many, many millions by going into the promotion business full-time. He has the potential, if he chooses, to head up a huge challenge to traditional labels.

Rose M. Welch says:

Re: Re:

Actually, his concerts made him well known.

Also, your entire first paragraph is bullshit.

Every day, in every industry, people are getting new ideas and trying them out. They are taking risks in order to do what they love, or make money. (Both for the lucky ones.) They are opening up consulting businesses with crazy payment schemes (Floor64), design firms with crazy schemes (DesignLawton), and old, old, companies are going in new, crazy directions (Seiko Corporation and Paragon).

Trent Reznor just has more publicity and is doing it in an industry that was incredibly locked down compared to, oh say, ANY OTHER industry, so it looks wilder.

Weird Harold (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, his concerts made him well known.

Actually, it was his demo / sampler record that make him well enough known to get a real record deal, and only after that real record deal did he become well known. Realistically, NIN wasn’t even a band until the first album got released. But that is just history.

Trent has publicity, he has a very strong and exceedingly loyal fan base, and has played to many in that fan base by allowing them to remix songs, to get demos, remixes, and allowed them to interact with the music. But all of this came after NIN had major success and massively levels of income from touring and other activities (including the promotion of Marilyn Manson). With a huge pile of money and a bit of a geek mentality, Trent has sunk right into his audience and become one of them.

He is a rare player in the game.

He is also affluent, and more than willing to spend that money to run all sorts of ideas up the flag pole. Most of them don’t pan out or don’t give truly the desires results (as witness by the fact that his latest couple of albums are not doing so well in sales, aren’t charting as high, etc) and that the vast majority of NIN music on radio these days is the older stuff, not the newer material.

He does have incredible momentum on his side, which can cause some to mistake this momentum for success on any of his “ideas”. So in many ways, it is really hard to tell how much is “new ways of doing things” succeeding, or just the hangover of the old ways being focused somewhere else.

Weird Harold (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Last two albums didn’t chart into the top 10, and they didn’t chart at all in some countries, which is unusual considering previous top 10 charting of all of the previous albums since Downward Spiral.

I have said before that I am a long, long, long time NIN fan, and unlike many I have paid for pretty much every disk (including some rarities picked up in Japan). The last few albums have left me less than impressed, With Teeth started a downward trend and I just haven’t enjoyed much since. I would say that sales, chart positions, and radio airplay that I hear suggests that other fans are in the same boat.

Qwerty U. Iop (profile) says:


So doing “things that are probably quite good from the fan standpoint” is wrong? How? Shouldn’t that be his primary concern? Isn’t that the point? The fans are the source of his success – not the record company. Reznor is often singled out here because he is mostly taking an enlightened viewpoint towards growing his business. The key to a prosperous, long-lived commercial concern is customers – well served, respected, happy customers, NOT indentured servitude to a corporate monolith.

Ryan says:

Re: ???

I wrote this about this guy in another post, which might explain your confusion:

This here is why WH never seems to agree with sensible arguments: because his economic paradigm is warped, and thus what the average observer considers to be advantages and drawbacks are not necessarily what he would agree with.

Ideally, a market is consumer-driven, such that businesses must cater to consumer desire by providing them with goods and services that they want, at the price they are willing to pay for. If some other business comes along offering a comparable product, for instance, at a lower price, then consumers will eventually give their money for the better valued product.

WH considers consumers to be a nuisance; he thinks an ideal market is one driven by businesses, such that they should be able to provide whatever quality product they want at the price they want to charge, and the consumer should be forced to pay it if they want to consume anything at all. You cannot point out to him that market A is better than market B because consumer will have more options at lower prices in market A, because he doesn’t consider that to be an advantage. He feels market B is superior because incumbent businesses are allowed to charge whatever they feel like and bilch as much money as possible out of the consumers.

It’s like trying to convince a pig that wrestling in the mud is a bad time; what a pig considers to be fun is not necessarily what a human feels is fun, and thus its like two ships passing in the night.

Anyway, this is pretty cool, but it’s what a lot of business owners fail to do. Anybody can look at the business from their own perspective, but it’s really not that hard to see from the consumer’s perspective with a little effort. Usually, it’s the small business, up-and-coming innovators that utilize this thinking effectively to push out incumbents (or it was, back when we had a free market and businesses were allowed to fail), but it’s interesting to see an established player taking the vanguard here. Of course, he doesn’t really have much choice, and Reznor seems to understand that better than anyone.

Raybone says:

Weird Harold you are stuck in a microcosm

Ok a musician, I am offended by your apparent belief that NIN and Trent are where they are mainly due to the Label. You are looking through an old-world lens and it seems Ryan #10 is indeed correct in his assessment of your world-view. Statements such as “Last two albums didn’t chart into the top 10, and they didn’t chart at all in some countries” and “only after that real record deal did he become well known.” prove this. These statements assume no success or happiness for Trent or satisfied and engaged fans without a label’s help or influence. Trent himself has discussed how clueless he was about industry practices in the beginning and how much shadiness he dealt with. A little research will show you how every major chart, rating, Grammy, major radio market, etc is controlled by the big media cartels. The recent consolidations of the last decade or so make this monopoly on culture even more dangerous. Any reference to NIN sliding in the corporate controlled charts would be expected and should not be used as evidence of anything since Trent no longer is a member of that team. Also assuming that without the label’s extortion and flash, NIN would never have achieved this level of success is faulty. Ever heard of Ani DiFranco? If not, its OK because millions have in spite of (or maybe because) of no label. ever. There are too many examples of newer models working for artists of all kinds that have been showcased on this site for you to be this ignorant. Add to that years and years of proof that the old way is not only dying, but was rampant in everything freedom-loving musicians and fans hated. Read “Hit Men” by Frederic Dannen to see how crooked the old ways were and how after the 70s, radio, promotion, and distribution was locked up by the cartels. The internet has been one of the greatest forces for freedom in history and has opened a whole wide world of opportunities for the modern musician that leaves no room for the no talent leeches. Listen to Pink Floyd’s “Have A Cigar.” Think about those lyrics, man

Lorne Entress says:

Trent Rezner

I thoroughly enjoyed your Trent Reznor video on YouTube and have to admit that many of his ideas are brilliant. Still, being a musician it’s rather dispiriting to think that getting one’s music out there may now depend on playing hide and seek with sound files or deciphering secret clues ala Harry Potter. As for the add-on products that Reznor sells for profit, imagine my dentist having to fill a cavity for free with hopes that I will pay a premium price for a limited edition mouthwash! Perhaps that’s apples and oranges–I do seriously embrace the reality that the business of recorded music is changing in a radical way. But just how helpful Reznor’s model is remains to be seen. His fans seem to exhibit a tribal-like allegiance and delight in his arcane promotions. That’s unlikely to be the case with all other music and fans.

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