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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Trent Reznor gets cocky, labels Radiohead "insincere"

Some of you may remember my post about Trent Reznor's new Nine Inch Nails album and how it's following a trend of digitally released albums (other bloggers are pondering this as well). However, while Reznor took a cue from Radiohead's release of In Rainbows, he has recently criticized the band's lack of sincerity with how it was done.

Reznor said, of the In Rainbows release:

"What they (Radiohead) did was a cool thing. But if you look at what they did, though, it was very much a bait and switch to get you to pay for a MySpace-quality stream. There's nothing wrong with that - but I don't see that as a big revolution [that] they're kinda getting credit for.

"What they did right: they surprised the world with a new record, and it was available digitally first. What they did wrong: by making it such a low quality thing, not even including artwork ... to me that feels insincere."

While Reznor is one of my music idols, my bias will not relinquish the fact that this is so incredibly passive aggressive. He sees "nothing wrong" with it, so subtly embracing the world with his concerns. Hey, there's nothing wrong with that, but if Reznor is going to make these critiques about the band, let's consider a few things:
  1. Radiohead, unlike Reznor, did not require you pay anything for the entire album. It was also made known that the album would be physically released (on CD) in stores; you could have, essentially, an advanced copy of the album, for free, then purchase a CD quality recording of the album once it was released. If getting the album three months early meant having to deal with "Myspace-quality" tracks, that's fine with me.
  2. Radiohead are minimalists. It's not about artwork, and you should notice that there's no artwork even included in the CD version (sorry, this is a factual error that I realized tonight--there is indeed artwork with the CD version). While a neat addition, I honestly never care about artwork, and I suppose many people feel the same way. Seems hardly justifiable to criticize Radiohead for that when a lot of other musicians follow the same suit. Let the music speak for itself.
  3. What Radiohead did was revolutionary. Putting this album out, digitally, without notice, was huge. It killed the middle man, and made sure there were no crappy bootlegs circling the web before release. It wasn't revolutionary, though, because of the action--it was revolutionary because it was Radiohead that was doing it. They gave everyone an advance on an album, for free, with out even knowing how they were going to distribute it. Instead of letting the album sit while they figured out a record deal, they just said, "Here you go, enjoy." That's an incredibly kind thing to do for the fans.
I appreciate Reznor for being an early adopter of the digital distribution era, but something tells me he is bitter having not started it. However, we should all give him credit for putting his music out there to be remixed by the fans, with out worry of copyright laws. So, Trent, you have been revolutionary in that regard. Just give credit where credit is due.


comoprozac said...

Actually, they're both a little insincere. Indie bands do all this kind of stuff all the time and really makes a difference to them financially. Radiohead can do whatever they want and still make a boat-load of money. Reznor is sort of irrelevant these days (sorry). I just always get a kick out of big rock stars making a big deal out of themselves.

Thanks for following these developments.

Randy said...

Comoprozac,explain how Reznor is sort of irrelevant these days. Please do not be vague in your explination.

Jake, why is this revolutionary? I'm sure there have been bands before Radiohead to release an album digitally. Radiohead might only get credit because they are popular.

Anyhow, Radiohead is too pop for me nowadays. I'm so indie.

Jake said...

"It wasn't revolutionary, though, because of the action--it was revolutionary because it was Radiohead that was doing it."

Bands that have done this, prior to Radiohead, did nto do it out of empowerment, but necessity. The technique could be used for a sort of viral effect (they put their album out there, get noticed, then get signed; comoprozac, Black Kids should come to mind).

I completely agree that the fact that Radiohead makes a ton of money and therefore it didn't matter if they even released an album. But that is exactly the point. They went to the trouble of making an album, being under more pressure than 99.9% of the bands that exist in the world, and then gave it to everyone for free, knowing full well that they didn't need to resort to this as a gimmick for sales.

Also, as stated before, it's not revolutionary if it's not done with the right vision. If unheard of bands did it out of necessity, how is that visionary or revolutionary?

What Radiohead has done has made it acceptable for heavy-hitters (Reznor, et al, no matter how "irrelevant") to go this route with out worrying if its viable not only in monetary terms, but overall success in general.

don said...

just to prove that its working for these 2 bands

comoprozac said...

Who's talking about Reznor these days? (Aside from BV, who just put a hole in my whole argument. Oh well.) What I mean to say is that Reznor/NIN hasn't really released any records of great significance since The Downward Spiral.

I honestly haven't heard his new material, but I suspect it's nothing new. My bet is that it's a caricature of what he once was: a vital and important musician with something new to contribute.

I don't know. Maybe Reznor will surprise me with his new digital release, but I somehow doubt it.

I did hear today (or maybe yesterday) on NPR that the fact that Radiohead has gone this route is significant/revolutionary just b/c it is Radiohead.

Either way, it's a good debate and will make for an interesting development in the music industry.