Trent Reznor Drops Secret Apple Music Project Hints

(Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

(Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Trent Reznor is well known to music fans for his creative work on a wide variety of projects, including his performances with industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails and for his critically-acclaimed compositions for movies such as The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. However, Reznor’s next project may have less to do with creating music and more to do with how we consume it. In a recent interview with Billboard, the Grammy Award-winning musician revealed that he is working on a secret music-related project for Apple. It should be noted that Reznor was the Chief Creative Officer for Beats Music, the subscription-based music streaming service that was acquired by Apple earlier this year along with its purchase of premium headphone maker Beats Electronics.

“It’s related to that,” Reznor told Billboard. “Beats was bought by Apple, and they expressed direct interest in me designing some products with them. I can’t go into details, but I feel like I’m in a unique position where I could be of benefit to them. That does mean some compromises in terms of how much brain power goes toward music and creating. This is very creative work that’s not directly making music, but it’s around music.”

When asked by Billboard if it was related to “music delivery,” Reznor said, “It’s in that world. It’s exciting to me, and I think it could have a big enough impact that it’s worth the effort. I’m fully in it right now, and it’s challenging, and it’s unfamiliar and it’s kind of everything I asked for — and the bad thing is it’s everything I asked for.”

Beats, Beats headphones

Andrew Burton/Getty Images

While Reznor didn’t reveal any other details about his work for Apple, it’s quite possible that he is involved in the process of integrating the Beats Music streaming service into the company’s iTunes brand. According to sources cited by Re/Code, the Cupertino-based company is currently working on rebranding the Beats Music service to bring it under the iTunes umbrella. Although Beats Music does not have as many subscribers as competing services like Spotify, Apple CEO Tim Cook has praised the service for its unique approach to music streaming.

“When I listened to [Beats Music] for a while I feel completely different,” Cook recently told interviewer Charlie Rose. “And the reason is that they recognized that human curation was important in the subscription service, that the sequencing of songs that you listen to affect how you feel. It’s hard to describe, but you know it when you feel it.”

Apple’s iTunes has been hit by the overall downturn in the digital music download market, as more consumers shift from buying digital music files to subscribing to online streaming music services. According to unnamed sources cited by The Wall Street Journal, worldwide music sales through the iTunes Store have dropped 13 to 14 percent since the beginning of the year, about the same rate of decline seen in the overall digital music download industry. According to the Nielsen Entertainment & Billboard’s 2014 Mid-Year Music Industry Report, individual digital track sales and digital album sales fell by 13 and 11.6 percent, respectively, in the first six months of 2014. Meanwhile, on-demand audio streaming grew by 50.1 percent during the same time period.

Another possibility is that Reznor is working on the same music project that U2 front man Bono recently described. In an interview with TIME, Bono said that he was working on a new “audiovisual interactive format for music that can’t be pirated and will bring back album artwork in the most powerful way.”

While it remains to be seen if the new music format described by Bono can resuscitate the dying digital music download market, the U2 front man at least knows what doesn’t work in the world of music delivery. The band attracted plenty of criticism when its latest album was pushed to more than 500 million iTunes users’ music libraries without their permission, as part of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus launch event. As reported by the BBC, Bono eventually apologized for the automatic download and noted that “I had this beautiful idea and we got carried away with ourselves. Artists are prone to that kind of thing.”

In the interview with Billboard, Reznor weighed in on U2’s download debacle and observed that, “I think the misstep was the wording: If it would’ve been, ‘Here it is, if you want it, come grab it…’ I am assuming the momentum of that situation led to the oversight in not thinking that people might feel intruded upon.” For this reason, even though it’s still unknown what “music delivery” project Reznor is currently working on for Apple, it’s probably safe to assume that it doesn’t involve pushing unrequested albums to people’s iTunes accounts.

Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS

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