First Radiohead. Now Nine Inch Nails.
Trent Reznor, the artist behind Nine Inch Nails, has informed the music world that his band is “totally a free agent, free of any recording contract with any label.” “I have been under recording contracts for 18 years and have watched the business radically mutate from one thing to something inherently very different,” Reznor said.
NIN is now the second mega-band in the past 10 days to announce itself label free. Unlike Radiohead, which said its new album will be available from its Website for whatever you want to pay, Reznor did not elaborate on NIN’s plans. “Look for some announcements in the near future regarding 2008,” he said. “Exciting times. Indeed.”
Already the hyperbole is in full swing. TechCrunch titled its post “Nine Inch Nails Help Seal Record Industry’s Coffin”. Ars Technica, a little more subtlety notes, “Record label defections by major acts a troubling sign for recording industry.” The recording labels are not dead — yet — but there’s obviously major change afoot for both the labels and artists. This change isn’t in the near future; it’s now.
With Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails eschewing recording labels and taking matters into their own hands, others probably will follow once their contracts expire or come up for re-negotiation. Ars notes that Jamiroquai and Oasis, popular bands without contracts, are rumored to be the next acts to strike out on their own.
Bertis Downs, manager for R.E.M., told the Los Angeles Times upon Radiohead’s announcement: “This is the sort of model that people have been talking about doing, but this is the first time an act of this stature has stepped up and done it. . . . They were a band that could go off the grid, and they did it.”
Change in the music industry, brought about largely because of the Internet and digital technologies, has been brewing for years but only now do bands like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have the clout and independence to make these moves. British rocker David Bowie forecast change in the music industry in a June 2002 New York Times article.
“The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within the next ten years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it,” Bowie said. “I see absolutely no point in pretending that it’s not going to happen. Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity.” (From The Future of Music.)