Did Nine Inch Nails Sell Out By Signing New Album To Columbia?

Fans rejoiced as Trent Reznor announced a new Nine Inch Nails album in addition to the current tour dates that sees the band play big festivals such as Lollapalooza, the Fuji Rock Festival and the Made In America Festival. Reznor also announced NIN signed to Columbia Records, who will release the as-yet-untitled album. But why did Reznor choose to sign to a major label?

For the last two NIN albums, Reznor embraced being a free agent. Earlier in his career, NIN saw plenty of success with Interscope Records, releasing “The Downward Spiral, “The Fragile, “With Teeth” and “Year Zero” before giving away “The Slip” for free as part of the Null Corporation label.

Reznor has always been vocal about the music industry, including its rigid and at times unfair price structure and distribution models. Prior to giving away “The Slip,” Reznor experimented with a variable price structure for the instrumental “Ghosts I-IV” album. Reznor offered several different versions of the album, a free nine-song sampler, a digital download, a physical version with an art book, a Deluxe Version and an Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition.

The fan-friendly service did not stop with albums as Reznor also made available more than 400 GB of high-definition footage captured during three NIN concerts in 2009. Fans were free to remix and play around with the footage as they saw fit, and the files were easily available on various Torrent sites.

With the announcement of the reformation of NIN earlier in 2013, the news of a new album will surely delight fans. Reznor had been busy working as a composer for “The Social Network” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and later worked with his wife, Mariqueen Maandig, in How To Destroy Angels, which released its debut album on Columbia.

Reznor spilled the beans on a new album, saying, “Over the last year, I've been secretly working nonstop with Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder on a new, full-length Nine Inch Nails record, which I am happy to say is finished and frankly f---ing great.” Reznor explained that the various creative projects he has been involved with after the retirement of NIN in 2009 spurred him to create a new album.

Not much else is known about Reznor’s plans for the new album, including details such as an album title, cover art or a track list, but the question remains: Why he would go back to a major label. NIN, much like Radiohead, has a big enough fan base to justify releasing albums on its own terms. Radiohead distributed “In Rainbows” and “King of Limbs” with a similar pricing model to NIN’s “Ghosts I-IV” release to great success.

Not privy to any actual details about NIN’s agreement with Columbia, Reznor may have no restrictions in regard to the album, and the label may just be coming along for the ride, as NIN is a marketable commodity and the album was already finished. There will be no further commitment after the release, and it could be a one-time deal. The release of a new album is newsworthy and will be highly anticipated when a release date is announced, but it’s curious why NIN didn’t stick with the release plan using the Null Corporation.

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