Paying for music is a 'relic' from the past - Reznor

Nine Inch Nails maintain Trent Reznor says paying for music is a “relic of an era gone by.”

He was chief creative officer of the Beats Music streaming service which Apple recently acquired for an estimated $3 billion. He’s now working with the technology giant and also says he understands why U2 gave their album Songs Of Innocence away for free to iTunes users.

The move sparked outrage among artists including Michael Sweet, Buckcherry’s Keith Nelson and Iggy Pop. And while admitting it’s a complex issue, Reznor insists the music business has changed.

He tells Billboard: “It’s something I spent a lot of time thinking about. I think paying for music is a relic of an era gone by – and I’m saying that as somebody who hopes you pay for music.

“I’ve spent my life trying to make this thing that now everybody now thinks should be free. With U2, there was an incentive to get in front of as many eyes as possible. I can see what was appealing to them about that and they’re getting paid for it.

“There’s the argument, ‘Did that help further devalue music?’ Yes, I think it did. When you put your music on, or allow your music to be on YouTube, is that devaluing music? There’s a whole generation of kids that listen to music on You Tube. They’re not going to pay a dollar for that song – why would you? it’s a complex problem.”

Nine Inch Nails’ last album was Hesitation Marks in 2013 which sparked an 11-month tour – and Reznor says it’s unlikely he’ll head out on the road for big shows ever again.

He continues: “I don’t see any fully-fledged rock extravaganza happening maybe ever – certainly not for the next several years. But the idea of putting myself in something that doesn’t feel as comfortable to me, I feel confident I can do that, or until my body falls apart on me.

“I’d like to get it to a place where it’s not a commitment of a year of being away because I don’t want to miss being a father. I would like to create more in quicker intervals rather than make an album, disappear for years and go on tour.”

Nine Inch Nails have been nominated for The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and Reznor reveals he’d be honoured if they were inducted.

He adds: “I was in Cleveland when they were campaigning to get it built there and I remember doing whatever you needed to do to try and raise public enthusiasm. That’s probably the most attention I had spent on it because I thought it would be nice to have some civic pride in Cleveland.

“But I find it flattering to be one of the nominees. It would be an honour to be a part of that if it goes that way. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’ve done the best work I can do.”

Reznor and composer Atticus Ross recently worked together on the soundtrack for Ben Affleck and Rosamund pike move Gone Girl. They previously worked together on the scores for The Social Network and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent 35 years in newspapers, magazines and online as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014 before moving to the e-commerce team in 2020. Scott keeps Louder’s buyer’s guides up to date, writes about the best deals for music fans, keeps on top of the latest tech releases and reviews headphones, speakers, earplugs and more. Over the last 10 years, Scott has written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog. He's previously written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald newspapers, covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to tech reviews, video games, travel and whisky. Scott's favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Cocteau Twins, Drab Majesty, Marillion and Rush.