The ongoing death of the CD has been discussed at length. There's no shortage of directions to point the finger: iTunes, illegal file-sharing services, the lack of brick-and-mortar record stores, etc. But if you ask Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, maybe the record industry should start blaming the record industry.
Reznor, long at odds with parent company Universal Music Group (UMG), has done his part to try to ensure that his newest album, Year Zero, would shift units. First, he shook up the conventional ways a CD is promoted by creating an internet-based alternative reality game that helped enhance the listener's Year Zero experience. Then he changed the way the CD looks by employing a color-changing disc and implanting hidden messages in both the music and the liner notes. Now he's criticizing the way his own label's Australian division milks his hardcore audience. In an angry message posted on the official NIN website, Reznor says that despite all his efforts to reimagine the album release in a post-Napster era, his label is conspiring against his fans. Reznor recently found out that Year Zero sells for $34.99 in Australian dollars, or $29.10 U.S. By comparison, Avril Lavigne's new album sells for $21.99 AU ($18.21 US). The reason, as a label rep told Reznor: "We know you have a real core audience that will pay whatever it costs when you put something out -- you know, true fans. It's the pop stuff we have to discount to get people to buy." And the record industry wonders why album sales are slumping?
This brand of intentionally screwing the fans is just one root of a big tree of problems plaguing major labels. In another attempt to prevent his fans' wallets from being exploited, Reznor has banished a planned European maxi-single for the song "Capital G," opting instead to release a Year Zero remix album in the future. This way, the fervent U.S. fans won't have to spend $30+ to import a two-song single that includes one new remix. Who would have guessed that Trent Reznor would emerge as the Ralph Nader of the music industry?