“It’s great if you’re Drake, it’s not great if you’re Grizzly Bear.” Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor says streaming has “mortally wounded” many musicians

Trent Reznor in 2022
(Image credit: Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Nine Inch Nails leader Trent Reznor has spoken about the effect of streaming services on the music industry.

In a new interview with GQ, the industrial rock pioneer – who’s also scored such films as The Social Network, Gone Girl and Soul with Nine Inch Nails bandmate Atticus Ross – said that the payment model used by the likes of Spotify and Apple Music has “mortally wounded” many artists.

“I think the terrible payout of streaming services has mortally wounded a whole tier of artists that make being an artist unsustainable,” Reznor said.

“And it’s great if you’re Drake, and it’s not great if you’re Grizzly Bear. And the reality is: Take a look around. We’ve had enough time for the whole ‘All the boats rise’ argument to see they don’t all rise. Those boats rise. These boats don’t. They can’t make money in any means. And I think that’s bad for art.”

Reznor continued: “And I thought maybe at Apple there could be influence to pay in a more fair or significant way, because a lot of these services are just a rounding error compared to what comes in elsewhere, unlike Spotify where their whole business is that.

“But that’s tied to a lot of other political things and label issues, and everyone’s trying to hold onto their little piece of the pie and it is what it is. I also realize, I think that people just want to turn the faucet on and have music come in. They’re not really concerned about all the romantic shit I thought mattered.”

During the interview, Reznor also spoke about the status of Nine Inch Nails, who haven’t performed live since late 2022.

Reznor explained that he deliberately stepped back from performing with his industrial rock band following the 2022 concerts, citing a lack of purpose in such a performance.

“For the first time in a long time I wasn’t sure: What’s the tour going to say?” Reznor explained.

“What do I have to say right now? We can still play those songs real good. Maybe we can come up with a new production. But it wasn’t screaming at me: This is what to do right now.”

However, the musician added that he and Ross are beginning to think about the next Nine Inch Nails album, which would be their first full-length studio recording since 2020’s twin-released Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts.

Reznor stated that doing soundtrack work with Ross “managed to make Nine Inch Nails feel way more exciting than it had been in the past few years. I’d kind of let it atrophy a bit in my mind for a variety of reasons.”

Ross added: “I do feel excited about starting on the next record. I think we’re in a place now where we kind of have an idea.”

Reznor and Ross’s soundtrack work will next be heard in the Luca Guadagnino sports comedy Challengers, which comes out on April 26 in the United States.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.