Trent Reznor, a musician who has been known for his opposition to the major label model, has returned to Columbia Records for his upcoming album, “Hesitation Marks.” His other project, How to Destroy Angels, is also through Columbia. So why would Reznor go back to the major label model he was so against only a few years ago? The truth is that there is no right or wrong path in the music industry. There is only the path that works best for you at the time. What was right for Reznor’s last album may not be right for this album.

Reznor split with Interscope back in 2007 and founded his own record label to self-release his music through his website and social media channels in 2008. With this model, Reznor was able to have a more direct connection with his fans and keep 100% of the profits from record sales. Here’s what Reznor said regarding major labels back in 2007:

“I have been under recording contracts for 18 years and have watched the business radically mutate from one thing to something inherently very different and it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate.”

In 2012, How to Destroy Angels signed with Columbia Records. This new project, with Reznor’s wife, Mariqueen Maandig, and long-time collaborator, Atticus Ross, would certainly benefit from major label promotion and marketing as well as the radio play. Apparently Reznor had a positive experience with Columbia, as he’s decided to work with them for the NIN album set to release September 3.

“It really comes down to us experimenting and trying new things to see what best serves our needs. Complete independent releasing has its great points but also comes with shortcomings.”

So what are some of the benefits and shortcomings of the independent and major label model? The independent model give the artist complete control over their career. They will keep 100% of the profit from recordings and be able to sell directly to their fans. Any marketing efforts will seem more genuine because fans will know it is coming directly from the artist. However, the independent artist is also limited by the freedom they strive for. The artist is only one person and can only get so much done in a day. They are limited by their connections and their knowledge of the industry.

The major label model provides the artist with a knowledgeable and well-connected team. The artist will be able to effectively reach international markets through the marketing efforts of the major label. In return, the artist must give up some control and a percentage of revenue. For some artists, however, getting a smaller piece of a larger pie ends up being more fitting to their situation.

“To have a team of people that are better at that [marketing and distribution] than I am worldwide…that felt like it was worth slicing the pie up monetarily. Our main agenda at the moment was to make people aware of it in the right context versus a little bit more money we might or might not make.”

“And so far it’s been pleasantly pleasant. Having people that actually kind of know what they’re talking about. Having a team, it’s been nice.”

The music industry is striving for a “new model;” a one-size-fits-all solution that would bring success to all artists. Some say that direct to fan is the way of the future, others highlight the indie label or the label alternatives provided by lifestyle companies like Red Bull and Converse, and many disregard the major labels as backwards. However, especially today with so many genres and markets for music, there is no one right path to success. What works for one artist may not work for others. Many previously outspoken musicians like Trent Reznor have realized this and have set an example for other musicians.

Musicians need to look at their career objectively and find out what they personally need to be successful. There is no right or wrong path in the music industry, there is only what works best for you.

Trent Reznor gave this interview to Digg recently.

“I can give you free music, and in my opinion, it may contribute to more people showing up to a show,” he says. “It’s not up to me to give you free music, it’s free anyway, you know for anybody that wants to admit it. Pretty much any piece of music you want is free on the Internet anyway.”

“We’re in between business models,” he continued. “You know, the old record labels are dead, and the new thing hasn’t really come out yet. So, I’m hoping that whatever gets established puts a lot more power in the hands of artists and more revenue.”

“If you have nothing in common with American Idol, and you don’t want to be The Pussycat Dolls, then you really don’t want to be on, certainly a major record label,” he adds.

“At every fork in the road that (profits) will be what’s put first,” he comments.”Not your longevity, not your vision. How can we make money from you.”

Connect With Fans + Reason To Buy = Business Model ($$)

Here’s an email from Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails to his fans. Here is a band that is inventing their own future and building their fan base directly. Take note, this is how it is done… Awesome. (Thanks to Mike King for this one).

Subject: Nine Inch Nails survey

Message from Trent:

Hello everyone. I’d like to thank everyone for a very successful year so far in the world of Nine Inch Nails. I’m enjoying my couple of weeks off between legs of our Lights In The Sky tour and got to thinking… “wouldn’t it be fun to send out a survey to everyone that’s shown interest in NIN?” Well, that’s not exactly how it went, but regardless – here it is. As we’ve moved from the familiar world of record labels and BS into the unknown world of doing everything yourself, we’ve realized it would benefit us and our ability to interact with you if we knew more about what you want, what you like, what you look like naked, etc. I know it’s a pain in the ass but we’d truly appreciate it if you’d take a minute and help us out. As an incentive, everyone who completes the survey will be able to download a video of live performance from this most recent tour (and I know what’s going through your little minds right now: “I’ll just grab this off a torrent site and not have to fill out the survey!!!” and guess what? You will be able to do just that and BEAT THE SYSTEM!!!! NIN=pwn3d!!!) BUT What if we were to select some of those that DO complete the survey and provide them with something really cool? I’m not saying we’ll ever get around to it, but if we did maybe something like signed stuff, flying someone to a show somewhere in the world, a magic amulet that makes you invisible, a date with Jeordie White (condoms supplied of course), you know – something cool. See, you’d miss that opportunity AND be a cheater. Do the right thing – help us out. You’ll feel better.

Thank you and I’ve had too much caffeine this morning, Trent

You wanna take the survey? Click here