The Whole World is Biting Off of Trent Reznor

So by now, Nine Inch Nails decision to dump its (his?) record label has been well publicized. Trent Reznor has been a pretty vocal opponent of the record industry’s excessive CD pricing for years now.*
What’s been less publicized is NIN’s unusually collaborative relationship with its fans, especially when it comes to remixes. Trent Reznor has been an active supporter of the Nine Inch Nails fan remix community – he’s released original multitracks of his work for fans to do with as they please. As a result, has existed as a self-sustaining online fan community for a couple of years now.
A couple of weeks ago, after some legal headaches wirh NIN’s former label, an official NIN remix site was launched (and by “official” I mean it’s being run by Reznor and/or his minions) there is also fan-created remix on the latest NIN CD. This is a pretty huge gesture of tolerance by an artist regarding fanworks. Recently, a collective of musicians have launched a similar project, CASHmusic, which allows fans an opportunity to access original content and to upload fan-created content of their own. Compare this to Prince’s recent legal crackdown on fan websites’ use of images and lyrics.

Slowly, the entertainment industry is coming up with different models that allow fans to express creativity without fear of being hunted down by the legal departments of media companies. More often that not, though, these initiatives seem to be coming from the artists themselves, not the media companies that own or distribute their work. At the end of the day, though, it’s the media companies that will need to readjust their thinking about the industry in order for these initiatives to have a life of their own. Something similar to the anmoku no ryokai model mentioned in the Wired article about dojinshi I mentioned on the blog a few weeks ago. It could happen. Fandoms are collectively becoming more savvy to issues of copyright and intellectual property, it’s not too unheard of to think that a fan-organized campaign could start that would send a message to media companies that fan activity contributes to the bottom line.

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Deven Desai discusses Trent’s /Saul Williams’ Niggy Stardust experiment and the music industry at Concurring Opinions here, and suggests that as “artists control their music maybe a hyper-individualized music scene will be our future. Maybe it already is.”

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