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Trent Reznor on CD prices

Ninyear_zero_album_cover I don't know what his contract with Universal's Interscope Records provides, but I suspect that Trent Reznor doesn't hold the copyrights to his band's latest album (Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails). So I'd be surprised if he could legally authorize fans to "steal it," as he instructed attendees at a recent concert in Sydney, Australia. But he does have a certain moral authority on the subject. It is his work, after all. And he has a legitimate beef about the price of CDs Down Under. HMV sells Year Zero for a stunning AU $32.99, which converts to about  $28 here. You can blame the lousy exchange rate for part of the sticker shock, but not all of it.

Reznor's eagerness to share the record with fans hasn't been confined to Australia, however. To promote the album, he leaked three tracks as MP3s, fully intending them to be passed around online. At the time he said the freebies were an attempt to boost sales, not crater them. Although his comments in Australia go further, they are in line with his previous remarks about the labels' greed and separation from music fans. In sum, his attitude speaks volumes about the growing problem for labels as established acts join newcomers in craving ears, not dollars, for their CDs.

Granted, it's a lot easier to part with CD revenue when you're capable of filling auditoriums at $75 a head, which is what it cost NIN fans to get into the 3,500 seat Hordern Pavilion. Nevertheless, a business model that trades CD revenues for ticket sales makes an increasing amount of sense even to veteran acts as the slide in CD sales deepens. No wonder Warner Music Group honcho Edgar Bronfman is so keen for "360-degree contracts" that would cut his labels in on tours, merch and other pots of revenue they don't share today. (A tip o' the hat to the Lefsetz Letter for drawing my attention to Reznor's comments, and to Coolfer for Bronfman's.)


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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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