TRENT REZNOR, FRIEND TO AUSTRALIANS EVERYWHERE
It’s been a long time since the height of Trent Reznor’s fame (e.g. back when “Head Like A Hole” came on the radio something like once an hour, maybe once every two hours on NPR) but the dark post-industrial musician maintains a devoted core of fans, in part due to his outspoken defense of music consumers against the pricing schemes and manipulations of the music industry.
Record labels were inclined to tolerate his public condemnations because Reznor was and still is guaranteed to draw a good number of customers both at the music store and at concert performances, so Reznor and his label Universal Records maintained a sort of uneasy peace until the Australian release of Reznor’s 2007 album Year Zero. This album—priced some ten or fifteen dollars more than other CDs of comparable length and production expense—turned out to be gilded satanic straw that broke the industrial gothic camel’s back.
Demanding to know why his album was priced so high, Reznor was told that his fanbase was considered so loyal (“true fans” in the words of the UMG rep who answered his questions) that it was assumed they would pay a premium for his content—in other words, the more loyal a fan you were, the more the label was going to screw you.
Livid, Reznor released Year Zero to Pirate Bay and other torrent sites, voiding his contract with Universal. Unfazed, Reznor began his own label and released his next four albums on a model where customers could download the tracks for free or pay for them in stores. His grateful “true fans” responded by making Reznor’s Null Corporation a cool $1.6 mil in the space of a week.