Trent Reznor Says YouTube Is “Disingenuous” and “Built on the Backs of Free, Stolen Content”


Musicians have always had negative things to say about streaming services, even though they’re no longer as nebulous or separate from the music industry as, say, Napster was in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Spotify, for example, is always under fire for its small payments for even the most popular artists, and Apple Music was criticized at first by Taylor Swift for its free-trial period that was also free for the service, i.e. they were not planning on paying artists for the plays they received during those periods. But the biggest enemy seems to be YouTube, which has come under fire before from Debbie Harry and others, but now Trent Reznor — who has successfully transitioned from music’s bad boy to one of its most successful businessmen — has piled on, too.

Reznor, who is Apple Music’s Chief Creative Officer, offered up his totally unbiased opinions at a roundtable with Billboard following this week’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. (At the event, it was also revealed that Apple Music would undergo a much-needed redesign.) Reznor’s comments came in response to a question about YouTube’s having been vilified by labels. He said:

Personally, I find YouTube’s business to be very disingenuous. It is built on the backs of free, stolen content and that’s how they got that big. I think any free-tiered service is not fair. It’s making their numbers and getting them a big IPO and it is built on the back of my work and that of my peers. That’s how I feel about it. Strongly. We’re trying to build a platform that provides an alternative — where you can get paid and an artist can control where their [content] goes.

Reznor’s comments arrive on the heels of the announcement of YouTube and other streaming services having signed with major labels Universal, Sony, and Warner to help make payments for streaming royalties more straightforward. (Apple Music was not a part of this agreement.) The attempts to transform the streaming industry into something more legitimate and, in a way, regulated, make total sense, seeing as streaming’s takeover is imminent for most musicians who aren’t Adele. But, still, Reznor’s YouTube comments ring true, given the way users are barely punished for uploading copyrighted material, sometimes even entire albums at a time. The company recently launched a subscription service, too, but given the availability of free music, it seems like an odd thing to pay for.

For instance, here’s an entire Nine Inch Nail album for free.