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Why Trent Reznor Is Wrong About Apple Music

1 (1)In this piece, Tom Vek takes on Apple product executive Trent Reznor following his comments regarding the future of music consumption, and expresses his feelings that the Nine Inch Nails frontman is pursuing the wrong avenues of development.

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Guest Post by musician and technologist Tom Vek

In a recent Billboard interview with the heads of Apple Music, Trent Rezor, Nine Inch Nails frontman and Beats-turned-Apple product exec, said some things that I have to call bullshit on. (I’m a recording artist and designer myself).

When I first heard that Trent had been employed by music biz heavy-hitter Jimmy Iovine for the streaming side of Beats, I was very excited. Trent has always been brutally independent, a cyber-punk who could write hits, with an incendiary eye for the visual side of his music. There’s so much ace artwork for Nine Inch Nails releases, and he wasn’t afraid of trying new things, like a url for credits and so-on. I think we have some shared musical characteristics even. I hoped he’d have the right attitude about the future of digital albums…

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Firstly when asked about how labels should feel about declining downloads sales and the inevitable crossover to streaming, his response included:

“..I’ve started buying vinyl”

What the hell Trent? You are in a position to create an awesome digital music format with insane resources at your disposal and your take is that the industry will be supported by a crackly prehistoric cumbersome format? Vinyl is having a resurgence but nothing like its heyday, and what about new artists who can’t afford to get vinyl produced? (it’s very expensive and the remaining pressing plants are overloaded currently), or those of us who actually like digital music?

I’d recently written about how “digital music should be better than vinyl” and how there needs to be a post-discovery digital music format. I know it’s a tough challenge, I’ve tried to build something myself (more on that later), but Apple, if you want to employ someone as your digital music advocate they should be renouncing vinyl, they should believe that digital music can bring a better experience, sure the bar is high, the vinyl experience is really nice, but that’s the point. Don’t go around calling streaming “disruption” when it’s making people regress 50+ odd years.

Secondly, I think he is wrong about his own product. He said this:

“.. every time there’s a new innovation, the musician is the one that didn’t have a voice at the table about how it’s presented. I thought, if I could make a place where there could be more opportunities, and it comes with more fertile ground, and music is treated with a bit more with respect, that interests me.”

Now I totally agree with this statement but unfortunately it doesn’t tally up with Apple Music.. at all! How do I as a musician have my voice at the table? What are the extra opportunities? Where is this fertile ground? Apple music currently is basically exactly like any other streaming service out there ie — you have no control about how your music is presented.

I want to see more control truly back in the hands of artists, I want more artwork — tracklist art, booklet art, lyrics (If I want people to read them!), credits, thank-yous, essays, whatever artists do or don’t want to accompany their music. I’ve actually tried to start something like this myself, an app called Sleevenote, I built and support it in my spare time, a starting point for the idea of a blank canvas for music packaging again, a place for fans to listen to an album once they’ve decided they like it. Products like this is what I would expect an artist like Trent to champion.

The Apple Music App redesign was recently unveiled at this year’s WWDC, my heart sank once again. It just gets worse, they are now rounding the corners of artwork. I’m extremely precious about my artwork. I think of rounding the corners of my work like cutting a few seconds out of my songs. How do I have a voice about this?

Don’t tell me that my voice is “Connect” — the universally panned social network element, that was fundamentally unusable let alone misguided. We have enough social channels to keep on top of thank you very much, let’s concentrate on creating an actual art-form, a format, a great end-goal for a digital album experience.

No fellow music artists I speak to are ever excited about releasing their music digitally, and creating something that does would have a huge impact on the industry. Empower the artist and you’ll be amazed at the results, I have some ideas Apple, if you want.

Tom Vek has released 3 studio albums, most recently “Luck” on Moshi Moshi Records, he is working on his 4th album, and his music app Sleevenote

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