Trent Reznor’s Tips For New & Unknown Artists

trent-reznorWe’ve given Trent Reznor and NIN a lot of credit for pioneering new ways of connecting with audiences via the Internet. Reznor has used free music downloads, Creative Commons licensing and fan remixes to reinvigorate his career.

Whenever we mention Reznor and his new media music experiments, though, the most common comment is that “sure – that works for an established act, but what about unknown artists?”

Reznor addressed that question at the NIN site today with a post that offers his “thoughts on what to do as a new / unknown artist”:

If you are an unknown / lesser-known artist trying to get noticed / established:

Establish your goals. What are you trying to do / accomplish? If you are looking for mainstream super-success (think Lady GaGa, Coldplay, U2, Justin Timberlake) – your best bet in my opinion is to look at major labels and prepare to share all revenue streams / creative control / music ownership. To reach that kind of critical mass these days your need old-school marketing muscle and that only comes from major labels. Good luck with that one.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.

To clarify:

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.

See the NIN site for the full article.

5 thoughts on “Trent Reznor’s Tips For New & Unknown Artists

  1. Once again, Reznor hits the nail on its nine-inch head. Not much comfort for us old geezers who don't know our Twits from our Blogrolls, though. For now, The Mirlitrons will stick to our plan of distributing our music in two ways: on 78 rpm shellac discs for that 'old-school' ambience, and via xenotelepathy for high fidelity.

  2. I think this is great advice. Will it work? Who knows, but it's probably the best option right now.

    I do wonder though, with 500,000 unkown bands all giving their music away for free, will there be a way to stand out enough to get a following? It still feels like a better business model for an established act like NIN or Radiohead to me, but time will tell.

  3. Well, giving away your music for free isn't really that new; before teh internets, bands got tape copies of their songs and gave them out at shows they played at. Hell bands still dot his, but with home-burned CD's. If they have studio recordings of songs, it would be demo-cd's, demo-albums, and so on. So this isn't entirely new. Like the band? Buy our shirts!

    The merchandising and alternate avenue of money is the key here. Online comic artists do the same thing; give away the product for free, cash in on supporting merchandise.

  4. I don't know if Reznor is saying this is all entirely new – his point is that this is the new reality

    If you want to get noticed as an unknown musician, you're competing against those 500,000 bands that are already giving away some or all their music. That a huge amount of noise to try and cut through.

    Reznor's prescription is a sensible as any I've seen.

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