It’s a shame that people (myself included) spend so much time talking about how bands with a massive fan base are staying in business, when the more difficult and interesting issue revolves around younger, struggling artists. Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon, The Cure’s Robert Smith, Paul McCartney, and many more have already brought this up, but few have offered solutions.
Now Trent Reznor has followed through with a hint he gave to Anja Caspary in an interview on German radio recently: Reznor said that one of his post-NIN ideas is to “help establish a new business model for musicians that’s a bit more fair to them,” adding that he’s “hoping to help come up with some new ideas to put the power back where it belongs, in the hands of musicians.”
In a lengthy NIN.com post (via The Daily Swarm), “written on a bumpy Euro-bus ride across the wilderness,” Reznor gives specific advice to the non-U2/ NIN/Radiohead type bands. The most important part is in his conclusion: “The role of an independent musician these days requires a mastery of first hand use of [new media].” Specifically, Reznor praises the Beastie Boys’ new Ill Communication reissue site on TopSpin, but he notes that younger bands probably won’t be selling $90 collector’s vinyl.
I think Reznor’s “manifesto,” as TDS called it, will suffice as a starting point for conversation, but my first reaction is that his advice is simply, “Do what I do.” One issue, IMO, is that bands are thrust into this new media complex only weeks, or days, after picking up an instrument. Getting heard everywhere and selling merch is less important than making sure people hear good stuff in the proper, marketed context.