Pretty Independent Machine

NIN and Radiohead So it begins.

Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails just announced that they are now an independent entity, apart from any music label or recording contract:

Hello everyone. I’ve waited a LONG time to be able to make the following announcement: as of right now Nine Inch Nails is a totally 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 and it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate. Look for some announcements in the near future regarding 2008. Exciting times, indeed.

This is the second A-List band to do this. Radiohead‘s recording contract expired after their last release in 2003, and they never sought to get another contract. Then, just a week ago, they announced that their next album will be released as a digital download only. In an interview with Time Magazine, Singer Thom Yorke said:

“I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say ‘Fuck you’ to this decaying business model.”

You can download their new album, In Rainbows, anytime after October 10. Also, you only have to pay whatever you want. That’s right: You name the price.

(Another small independent artist, a female vocalist, did this first, about a year ago. I can’t find her site or any info about her though. Anyone know who she is?)

It’s interesting to see these large acts go the way of smaller, independent musicians, such as Jonathan Coulton, who is one of the larger independent acts on the web. He’s most known for his songs Code Monkey, Baby Got Back (a Sir Mix-a-Lot cover), and Re: Your Brains. Coulton has a significant cult following and sells his MP3s for only one US dollar each. This, plus his live performances and various other projects, haven’t earned him a gold-plated Rolls Royce yet. Though, according to an interview with Quick Stop, Coulton says “…in some parts of the country, I’d be making a decent living.”

So being an independent musician without a record label or contract, what does Coulton think about all this? In regards to the Radiohead move, he writes:

I think this is a great move for them, and at the very least it’s an experiment the rest of us can learn from – I hope they’ll be forthcoming about the numbers they get. If I had to guess I’d say this plan will get the music to more ears, possibly generate less gross revenue on digital sales, but vastly improve their bottom line – their profit margin is going to be a lot higher than it would be with a label/distributor, plus this is likely to drive plenty more people to live shows and merchandise.

Exciting times, indeed.

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

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