Trent Reznor made a lengthy post this morning on the Nine Inch Nails message board, offering his thoughts on operating as a new/unsigned artist. He praises Beastie Boys’ for joining the multitude-of-purchasing-choices-direct-from-artist brigade, and goes on to say unsigned bands should follow suit:
If you’re forging your own path, read on.
* Forget thinking you are going to make any real money from record sales. Make your record cheaply (but great) and GIVE IT AWAY. As an artist you want as many people as possible to hear your work. Word of mouth is the only true marketing that matters.
Parter with a TopSpin or similar or build your own website, but what you NEED to do is this – give your music away as high-quality DRM-free MP3s. Collect people’s email info in exchange (which means having the infrastructure to do so) and start building your database of potential customers. Then, offer a variety of premium packages for sale and make them limited editions / scarce goods. Base the price and amount available on what you think you can sell. Make the packages special – make them by hand, sign them, make them unique, make them something YOU would want to have as a fan. Make a premium download available that includes high-resolution versions (for sale at a reasonable price) and include the download as something immediately available with any physical purchase. Sell T-shirts. Sell buttons, posters… whatever.
Reznor continues fielding comments from readers saying “Sure, it works…if you’re Radiohead or Nine Inch Nails,” and still defends the business model. Of course, he wasn’t too pleased when the In Rainbows model bit him on the ass with the lesser-known Saul Williams.